Everyone should have an equal opportunity at a second chance at life; Inequality and the Stem Cell Register
With someone new being diagnosed with a blood cancer every 14 minutes, it is important to ask what we can do about this and why inequalities may lie even in saving lives. The Anthony Nolan Stem Cell Register (Anthony Nolan or ‘AN’) is a database that finds those suffering with blood cancers, such as leukaemia, their perfect stem cell match. It is a very inclusive database, as unlike donating blood, Anthony Nolan do not discriminate against homosexual donors. You can donate whether you identify as homosexual, heterosexual, or transsexual (just some examples). You also can donate if you have just had a piercing or new tattoo, unlike blood donation.
Joining the register is easy and takes 5 minutes. All that is required is for you fill out a form providing your basic information such as your address, email, height, GP information etc. so the charity can reach you in years to come if necessary. After you have given this, you are sent a swab pack in the post for you to swab the insides of your cheeks for 15 seconds each (it’s nothing like a COVID test, don’t worry). You then send off your swabs for free which are taken to the AN lab to be added to your profile – and just like that, you’re a lifesaver!
The process is super easy and worthwhile even if you think that the chances of you being someone’s match are low. The rough statistical chance of you being called up to donate is roughly 1/800, but as everyone is unique with specialised genomes, this chance may increase depending on your DNA. If you ever are called up in years to come you can always say no. Even if you change your mind literally as soon as you send the swabs off, you can let AN know and they’ll dispose of your data appropriately. With every individual added to the stem cell register, doctors can be more specific with their matches, hopefully leading to more successful donations to patients who really need it.
This is an amazing charity that everyone can easily be a part of, however, some of the stats shared by AN are rather upsetting. Though 80% of successful donations come from young male donors, men only make up 11% of the register. This is such a problem, Anthony Nolan’s student-led branches have a campaign held every March called ‘March of the Men’, as an initiative to boost their number of male donors.
Additionally, when considering the register’s diversity, 72% of people from White Northern European backgrounds can find the best possible donor match for a stem cell transplant. However, this falls to just 37% for people of an ethnic minority background. Everyone should have an equal opportunity at a second chance at life, so Anthony Nolan work particularly hard to target this audience and inspire those in ethnic minority backgrounds to join the register.
How can you help to tackle this inequality?
You can share the word about this incredible charity! Anthony Nolan not only work to provide those with blood cancers a second chance at life, but also do pioneering research into umbilical cord donation due to the high levels of stem cells and nutrients this part of the body carries.
You can sign yourself up to the register! It’s super easy, the only criteria you need to meet is you must be:
Written by Katie Wills