Prostate Cancer in the African American Community
African American men die from prostate cancer at a rate that is nearly twice that of the white community. In this one hour program, producers David Barasoain and Jayne Solinger explore these facts and look into what is being done to change this trend. The program features interviews with those who are working to educate men about prostate cancer and that show support. It features local health professionals like Dr. Otis Brawley Medical Director of the Georgia Cancer Coalition Center of Excellence at Grady Hospital and Dr. Allen Simpson, Executive Director of the Comprehensive Men’s Health Initiative of Atlanta.
The Atlanta-based American Cancer Society (ACS), reports that “prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men, other than skin cancer.” The United States has the highest incidence of prostate cancer in the world, and the ACS estimates there will be 218,890 cases diagnosed in the U.S. in 2007. It’s the second leading cause of cancer-related death after lung cancer.
African American men have the highest incidence rate as well as the highest mortality rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African American men are at least 50% more likely to develop prostate cancer compared with Caucasian men and nearly twice as likely to die from the disease. There are several theories as to why African American men have a higher risk: Lack of knowledge about the disease, waiting too long before seeing doctor, family history, healthcare access and diet.
One ways to educate African American men about the dangers of prostate cancer is through a plan called the barber shop initiative. This is where barbers are trained in a role as a lay health educator and liaison with local medical center. They work to educate their consumers about the dangers and warning signs of prostate cancer. The coordinator for the Barbershop Initiative in Atlanta is Dr. Allen Simpson. He’s also the Director of the Comprehensive Men’s Health Initiative of Atlanta.
Men with a single first-degree relative—father, brother or son—with a history of prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease, while those with two or more relatives are nearly four times. The risk is highest in men whose family members were diagnosed before age 65.
Many men will have prostate cancer and never know it, living long productive lives and eventually dying of other causes. Prostate cancers grow at different rates, making it impossible to create a one-size-fits-all chart for symptoms, screening, or treatment. Screening for prostate cancer most frequently involves a physical exam, and may include a Prostate-Specific Antigen Test (PSA) test
The ACS states “that doctors should offer PSA blood test and DRE (digital rectal exam) yearly, beginning at age 50 to men who do not have any major medical problems and can be expected to live at least 10 more years. Men at high risk should begin testing at age 45. Men at even higher risk — those with an immediate family member who has contracted prostate cancer — at 40.
At this point, no group is currently recommending routine testing for prostate cancer. Rather they agree that it’s important for all men to talk with their healthcare provider about prostate cancer and the options for screening in order to decide what’s right for them to do. It’s important to remember that, as with all cancer, the earlier it is caught, the more treatment options are available, and the better the possible outcome for the patient.
Today, the death rate for prostate cancer is at an all-time low for both white and black Americans. Experts attribute this change to earlier rates of detection and better treatment options.
The American Cancer Society, offers a wealth of information on the risks, symptoms, impact, and treatment for prostate cancer. You can also assess your risk with a short quiz from The Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention.