Sylvia Okonofua, of the University of Regina’s Stem Cell Club. (YouTube)

Sylvia Okonofua, of the University of Regina’s Stem Cell Club. (YouTube)

Most Black Canadians won’t find a stem cell donor in time; this group is working to change that

Less than 3 per cent of stem cell donors are Black

A group of advocates is urging Black Canadians to sign up as stem cells donors.

The appeal, which comes during Black History Month, cites a sobering statistic: Black people make up less than three per cent of the Canadian stem cell donor registry.

“That means that lots of people waiting for a stem cell transplant don’t get their match and then die,” said Sylvia Okonofua, of the University of Regina’s Stem Cell Club, in a video posted to the club’s website.

According to the club’s data, only 16 to 19 per cent of Black patients find a matching unrelated donor, compared to 75 per cent of white patients. That’s largely because of how fell Black stem cell donors there are in Canada’s registry; according to the Stem Cell Club, 0.37 per cent of potential donors are Black-African, 0.26 per cent are Black-Caribbean and 0.90 per cent are designated as Black-other. According to the latest census, roughly 3.5 per cent of the population was Black in 2016.

Okonofua said the lack of Black donors can be deadly because it’s easier to find a donor match from people with the same race and ethnicity as the recipient.

“Only people with your specific genetic markers can actually become matches for you,” she noted, adding that the Stem Cell Club and Canadian Blood Services are working together to recruit Black entertainers and celebrities to spread the word.

In order to register, people can visit: www.blood.ca/en/stemcells. Those who sign up will be sent a swab kit and added to the registry for when a matching recipient needs stem cells. Ninety per cent of donors will be able to give using a procedure similar to giving blood, while less than 10 per cent will give bone marrow.

@stemcellclub

Who’s in your swabbing squad? Repost from @utscstemcellclub #stemcells #donation #savelives #uoft #toronto #canada

♬ original sound – Stem Cell Club

ALSO READ: ‘Systemic racism’ in Canada reflected in health, income and other indicators


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