NeNe Leakes and family are in mourning after her husband, Gregg Leakes, died from colon cancer on Wednesday, Sept. 1. He was 66.
Gregg appeared with NeNe, 53, on 12 seasons of the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” reality TV franchise, which chronicled their 2011 divorce, 2013 reunion and over-the-top nuptials in a wedding special titled “I Dream of NeNe.”
“Today, the Leakes family is in deep pain with a broken heart. After a long battle with cancer, Gregg Leakes has passed away peacefully in his home surrounded by all of his children, very close loved ones and wife NeNe Leakes,” a statement from the couple’s publicist Ernest Dukes said. “We ask that you pray for peace and strength over their family and allow them to mourn in private during this very, very difficult time.”
Gregg was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2018 but went into remission after receiving treatment, Page Six reported. NeNe confirmed in June that his cancer had come back. NeNe shared publicly that Gregg was dying during a visit to their Linnethia Restaurant and Lounge in Duluth, Georgia on Saturday, Aug. 28.
She made the announcement after being called rude for not saying happy birthday to a customer. “My husband is transitioning to the other side,” the former “Real Housewives of Atlanta” reality star said in a video clip posted to Instagram by Onsite.
“You guys approached me and said I was rude and the real truth is you’re rude. You don’t know what we’re dealing with right now. We walked in this lounge because we had to walk in this lounge because this is our business … My husband is at home dying,” NeNe said.
Gregg is the latest Black male celebrity to die of colon cancer, which has caused an outpouring of tributes and condolences to his loved ones. Beloved “Black Panther” actor Chadwick Boseman died of the disease in August 2020, sending shockwaves and raising awareness about how the disease ravages the Black community.
Here are five things to know about colon cancer and Black men.
According to cancer.org, African Americans are about 20 percent more likely to get colorectal cancer and about 40 percent more likely to die from it than most other groups. This statistic applies regardless of age and income.
Younger people are being diagnosed more frequently with colon cancer. According to the University of Texas MD Anderson Center, “this is especially true in the Black population.”
“We know that being younger at diagnosis means the cancer will be at a later stage,” said Dr. George Chang. “That makes the cancer harder to treat.”
According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as interpreted by My GI Health, one in 41 Black males will die from colorectal cancer, compared to one in 48 white males. The risk is similar for women. One in 44 Black females will die from colorectal cancer, compared to one in 53 white females.
Research shows not only are Black men and women more likely to refuse a colonoscopy, but they are also less likely to be told they need one by their doctors, My GI Health reported. Black people also have less access to quality health care, which exacerbates the issue.
According to medical experts, “African-Americans are more likely to develop polyps deeper in the colon, on the right side.”
Because of the way screenings for colon cancer are done, doctors typically examine, find and remove polyps that cause the cancer from the left side, thus missing deadly polyps in some Black people.
“Other lifestyle factors among African-Americans – higher tobacco-related illness, more obesity, less physical activity, and lower intake of vitamins C and E – are also thought to be tied to colon cancer,” My GI Tract reported.