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Cancer Care

Believe the Hype: Rapper Chuck D Says Colorectal Cancer Screenings Save Lives

Photos: Courtesy of Travis Shinn

As a member of the rap group Public Enemy, Carlton Ridenhour (AKA Chuck D) has never been afraid to take a stand for what he believes in. Now a collaborating artist with Hip Hop Public Health, which has partnered with Stand Up To Cancer, Chuck D is urging everyone 45 and over, and those with a family history of the disease, to get screened for colorectal cancer.

With Public Enemy, you made music that brought attention to important political and social issues. What inspired you to start raising awareness about colorectal cancer?

We’ve all lost someone, and in a lot of situations there were things that could have been done to keep them healthier and on this Earth longer. Sometimes it’s something as basic as getting check-ups. I learned from Hip Hop Public Health that Black people tend to get diagnosed with colorectal cancer after it’s already progressed, and that leads to higher death rates — higher than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. I think a lot of folks don’t know colorectal cancer is beatable 90 percent of the time if it’s detected early. So, it’s a no-brainer to get regular screenings. We just have to get the word out.

Can you talk about some of the charity work you’ve been doing to raise awareness of colorectal cancer and encourage people to get screened? 

When I first met Dr. Olajide Williams, he told me how much he respected the way I used my public platform and that it could really help spread the message they were trying to reach people with. I’ve supported them ever since. Hip Hop Public Health uses hip hop for the betterment of the community instead of it being just commodified to sell songs and products.

Their mission is to “deliver positive health behavior change through the transformative power of music, art, and science,” and they’re working with Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) to get the message out to the community about how much colorectal cancer screenings can change the fate of someone’s life if the cancer is detected early. It’s a huge opportunity. I’m just one small part of the team.

Why is it important to encourage all people over 45, but especially people of color, to get screened for colorectal cancer?

There’s long been distrust with doctors and people in public administration because they’ve ignored us for so long, and as a result there’s a tendency to not go to the doctor. At the same time, there’s an overtrust in the things that we consume blindly that are slowly killing us. So, there’s a lot to overcome, but the work Hip Hop Public Health does is a good way to get in there and change things up.

Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers to encourage them to get screened?

If you’re 45, or if you’re younger and have a family history of colorectal cancer, get screened. Period. You should get screened even if you don’t have any symptoms.

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