BOSTON (WHDH) - The wife of late “Black Panther” actor Chadwick Boseman spoke at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute as part of an effort to raise awareness about the cancer that took his life.

Simone Ledward-Boseman was the keynote speaker at the 5th Annual Patient and Family Forum at the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center.

Young-onset colorectal cancer refers to the diagnosis of colorectal cancer in individuals younger than 50 years old. In the United States, colorectal cancer is now the leading cause of cancer deaths in men under the age of 50 and the second among women of the same age, according to the American Cancer Society. Those numbers are rising about one to two percent each year, and the reason for this rise remains unknown.

“The alarming rise in young-onset colorectal cancer underscores the urgent need for heightened awareness, early detection, and comprehensive research to understand the underlying causes and develop effective prevention and treatment strategies,” said Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center and associate chief of the Division of Gastrointestinal Oncology at Dana-Farber.

“Colorectal cancer is killing young people across the country, and most are vastly underestimating their risk. I’ve seen how this disease moves, and I know now how treatable it is when it’s detected early. My personal advocacy stems from this understanding, and from the disappointment I feel in the lack of awareness in my community,” said Ledward-Boseman. “We who have this knowledge have an obligation to inform our fellow man. Spreading awareness will save lives.”

Colorectal cancer occurs at a higher rate in Black Americans than any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S. according to the American Cancer Society. Black Americans are more than 20% more likely to get the disease and 40% more likely to die from it than most other groups.

Dana-Farber’s Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center is among the first centers in the country dedicated to both treating colon and rectal cancer in patients younger than 50 as well as accelerating the pace of research into why incidence rates are rising in this young population. It provides patient-centered opportunities as well as important education events, including the Annual Patient and Family Forum, to help patients and their supporters.

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