D. Prostate Cancer

The disparity is eye opening: African-American men are nearly 1.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than Caucasian men and 2.4 times more likely to die from the disease.

Although scientists do not yet fully understand why prostate cancer incidence and death rates are higher within the African-American population, it is widely believed that a combination of factors and disparities likely play a combination role in the statistics, and in some cases, create a perfect storm for diagnosis of aggressive disease.

“Despite ongoing controversies concerning the benefit of prostate cancer screening and treatment of localized disease, prostate cancer continues to be the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States. In addition to the thousands of men that die from prostate cancer each year, many more will deal with the debilitating consequences that occur when the cancer spreads to other areas of the body, most commonly the bone, resulting in severe pain, fractures, and other serious medical complications,” says Isla Garraway, MD, PhD, a prostate cancer researcher at UCLA.

“African-American men, in particular, display increased risk of suffering and death from prostate cancer, compared to men of other ancestral backgrounds. Black men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, are diagnosed at a younger age, display larger tumors, and are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer that has spread throughout the body than white males,” adds Garraway.

One of the major barriers to identifying the disparity of prostate cancer among African-American men has been the lack of epidemiological studies with the inclusion of sufficient numbers of men across different races. We may also gain insight by studying the demographic shift and related increased rates of prostate cancer seen in parts of Africa. The good news is that scientists, legislators and advocacy groups are bringing new emphasis to this perplexing reality.

In 2012, then U.S. Sen John F. Kerry (D-MA) led unanimous passage of the Senate Resolution 493 to recognize prostate cancer as an epidemic striking African American men disproportionately. This bipartisan legislation urges federal agencies to support research for the advancement of diagnostic tools, including novel biomarkers and imaging technologies. Improved diagnostic tools will save lives and assure individuals the least invasive and the most cost-effective patient care in millions of American men.

Senator Kerry said, “Prostate cancer is an epidemic – it kills every 16 minutes. This disease killed my dad, but I was lucky to beat it ten years ago. I introduced this resolution in the Senate to bring attention to this silent killer, how it disproportionately affects African Americans, and the need for additional federal investment in prostate cancer research, education, and awareness. I’ve been through the battle against prostate cancer and I understand the strain a diagnosis places on the patient and their loved ones. We need to stay focused on research and arm Americans with the tools to prevent, detect, cure and treat this disease, and I’m grateful to my colleagues and our advocates for pushing this resolution through.”

By Dan Zenka, APR
Senior Vice President, Communications
Prostate Cancer Foundation

"Knowledge of self (knowing your history) is perhaps the greatest thing that you could possess. Once you know who you are everything falls into place." ~Runoko Rashidi