Category: Health Magazine, Summer 2023

Title:Linking racial discrimination to frailty

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Photo: iStock

Discrimination experienced by Black people can affect their health and increase their frailty, which can be particularly impactful for cancer survivors, according to a new study by researchers at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and colleagues at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. The researchers assessed frailty by a number of factors, including whether a participant had several chronic diseases, poor muscle strength, and difficulty performing activities of daily living.

“Discrimination can act as a chronic stressor, which can throw the body off balance, resulting in increases in blood pressure, heart rate, metabolism, inflammation, and numerous other factors. These stressors can also increase rates of aging, leading to greater risk of frailty,” says the study’s lead investigator, Jeanne Mandelblatt, director of the Georgetown Lombardi Institute for Cancer and Aging Research. “We hypothesize that discrimination can lead to an older biological age than a person’s actual chronological age. This is important to understand as there have been virtually no studies of the relationships between discrimination and aging in the setting of cancer survivorship.”

The researchers surveyed the participants about any aging-related diseases they had, their ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and most importantly, about major discrimination events they may have experienced, such as: being unfairly fired or denied a promotion in their job; not being hired for a job; being unfairly stopped, searched, questioned, physically threatened, or abused by police officers; being unfairly discouraged by a teacher or advisor from continuing their education; unfairly receiving worse medical care than other people; being prevented from moving into a neighborhood; and moving into a neighborhood where neighbors made life difficult.

The findings appeared in the March issue of Cancer.

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