A Scary Stat for African-American Males

May 15, 2019

Scary Stats About Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is terrifying. It’s not hard to see why, either. Prostate cancer is a significant health problem in the United States with about one in nine men diagnosed in their lifetime. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men (not including skin cancer). As if its prevalence wasn’t bad enough, it is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among men. Prostate cancer develops mainly in older men and in African-American men. About six cases in ten are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older.

Prostate cancer occurs in the male prostate (a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm). It begins when cells in the prostate gland start to grow uncontrollably. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is enlarged, just beyond what the body is expecting and able to control. Often, prostate cancer does not cause symptoms in the early stages. This type of cancer can be small and slow growing or it can be fast growing and progress rapidly. If it’s detected early — when it’s still confined to the prostate gland — there’s a better chance of successful prostate cancer treatment.

A Mystery to be Solved

What causes prostate cancer? It’s a subject of intensive research. It is likely that there is no one single prostate cancer cause that we can point to as the root. Some known risk factors include family history, obesity, and, most notably, African-American race. These known risks may help, but still, don’t provide definitive answers for prostate cancer causes.

The Link to African-American Males

African-American males are in the highest risk group for prostate cancer. The stats show an incidence of more than 200 cases per 100,000 men. African-American men also tend to present with more advanced disease and have poorer overall prognosis than Caucasian or Asian men. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, African-American men are nearly 1.6 times more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men. They are also 2.4 times more likely than Caucasian men to die from the disease.

The worst of it may be that African-American men are at higher risk of dying from low-grade prostate cancer. A recent study has found that the risk of death from prostate cancer is double that of men of other races. The findings of the study have identified racial differences in the biology and presentation of low-grade prostate cancer noting that certain biological factors may make low-grade prostate cancer more likely to grow and spread in African American men than in men of other races.

Possible Causes

Although no definitive reasons as to why prostate cancer incidence and death rates are higher for African-American men have been found, there are a few possibilities worth noting:

– Late detection
– Biological differences: such as genomic features of prostate tumors. Suggesting differences in tumor genomics that may make low-grade prostate cancer more aggressive in African American men
– Limited biopsies: Traditional prostate biopsies used to detect prostate cancer may be more likely to miss areas of high-grade prostate cancer in African-American men. A 2014 study found that African-American men are more likely to have tumors in the anterior region of the prostate, which is harder to reach with a traditional transrectal biopsy. This leads to a higher likelihood of misdiagnosis of low-grade disease. However, today, advances in MRI technology have fixed this issue as they allow for suspicious areas in the anterior prostate to be identified before a biopsy which reduces missing high-grade tumors in this part of the prostate gland
– Cultural and lifestyle habits
– Access to medical care
– Distrust of the medical system

The good news is that through extensive research and medical trials, the projected deaths from prostate cancer in African-American men have dropped by more than 50% in the last 20 years. And even though the risk for African-American men is still greater, the gap between five-year survival rates of prostate cancer in Caucasian and African-American men has shrunk. Austin Urological Institute is inspired to help lower the death rate from prostate cancer even more. We continue to pursue the best methods available for prostate cancer treatment.

Prostate Cancer Prevention

What’s the best approach to preventing prostate cancer in African-American men? Early detection, easy access to healthcare, and annual screenings. The easiest way to detect prostate cancer and catch it early is to be diligent about getting screened regularly.

Annual screening depends on age, ethnicity, family history and other risk factors. However, the process is very simple. It involves a blood test called a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) and a prostate exam (DRE or digital rectal exam). This can be performed by a primary care physician or a urologist. Recently, genetic testing has been made available which can aid in determining prostate cancer risk if there is a strong history of prostate cancer in the family.

For more information about prostate cancer treatment or for prostate cancer screening, contact Austin Urology Institute at (512) 694-8888 to make an appointment with a provider.