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September 9, 2002

Brawley to look at race, cancer in Great Teachers Lecture

By Vince Dollard

Otis Brawley, one of the country’s leading experts in cancer prevention and a preeminent scholar in research in health disparities, will deliver the 2002–03 academic year’s first Great Teachers Lecture on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the Miller-Ward Alumni House.

In his address, “Observations in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention,” Brawley will look at cancer incidence and mortality in different populations in the United States and in Georgia. He will discuss health disparities among various populations, the reasons for these disparities and what solutions are available. Brawley also will talk about what is being done at Emory to alleviate the situation.

The numbers are very clear, according to Brawley, who directs the Georgia Cancer Coalition Center for Excellence at Grady Hospital. Since the early 1980s, African Americans have been dying of breast, prostate and other cancers in greater numbers than white Americans. Whereas in 1980 black and white women with breast cancer faced similar death rates, just 10 years later a black woman’s risk of dying of breast cancer was 16 percent greater than a white woman’s. By 1995 the percentage difference had grown to a staggering 29 percent.

“Race is not a factor in outcomes, in terms of genetics,” Brawley said. “The genetics of black folks did not change in the past 25 years. I believe that a big part of the reason these disparities exist is in the quality of care received.”

Brawley cites a number of studies—from large health care systems, the Department of Defense and health maintenance organizations—demonstrating that equal care yields equal treatment among equal patients. Race, he argues, may mask the real culprits, including poverty, diet, tobacco and alcohol use, and inadequate health care.

Brawley is a board-certified internist and oncologist trained at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, Case Western and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). He came to the Winship Cancer Institute from the NCI, where he was assistant director for special populations research.

In addition to his leadership at the Grady Center for Excellence, Brawley holds appointments as professor of medicine in the School of Medicine and of epidemiology in the Rollins School of Public Health.

Great Teachers Lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, call