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Epigenetics and their role in colon cancer

Posted at 6:34 AM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 18:36:55-05

BALTIMORE, md. — His performance on the big screen left us mesmerized....he stole the show as Marvel's Black Panther....what we didn't see from actor Chadwick Bozeman was his private battle off screen.

In 2016 the Golden Globe winner was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer.

He died August 28th of last year.

"We know for sure those of African American descent have a higher rate of colon cancer and it tends to happen at earlier ages."

Emily Kuchinsky, a Certified Genetic Counselor at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center says new research from UVA is shedding some light on the increased risks that African Americans have when it comes to the cancer. It may be tied to something called epigenetics.

"Epigenetics are changes in how DNA sequence is read, so whether or not a gene is expressed or functioning in our body as it should."

"That's a big deal as far as cancer goes because if we have these epigenetic changes affecting a cancer gene then that person would be at a higher risk for cancer."

UVA researchers found an interesting connection.

"They actually found those of African American descent they tend to have more epigenetic changes in the right side of the colon verses those of European American descent."

"The right side of the colon is near the small intestine where the left side of the colon is more distal closer to the rectum."

While the research and undoubtedly Boseman's tragic death are raising awareness about African Americans and colon cancer....what they don't know is what's triggering the disparity.

"I don't think we quite know that, further research is definitely needed to figure out if it is more lifestyle factors or just something related to ancestry."

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