What Black Men Should Know About Prostate CancerSep 03, 2021 03:00PM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
National Prostate Health Month, also known as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, is observed every September in the United States by health experts, health advocates, and individuals concerned with men’s prostate health and prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in the United States, behind skin cancer.
According to Prevent Cancer, more than 174,600 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than 31,600 die from the disease. Prostate cancer is most commonly diagnosed in men older than 65. Let's explore how prostate cancer affects Black men differently and the importance of getting your prostate checked regularly. Prostate cancer can remain symptomless for many years but when prostate cancer does cause symptoms, a person might notice:
- frequent or painful urination
- painful ejaculation or a decrease in the amount of ejaculate
- pain in the back, hips, or thighs
- blood in semen or urine
- weak urine stream
- unintentional weight loss
Black men are at an increased risk for developing prostate cancer over White men and other men of color. One in seven Black men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. When prostate cancer appears in Black people, it tends to be more aggressive and progresses faster. Overall, Black men are 1.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 2.2 times more likely to die of this specific type of cancer than White men.
Dr. Philip Kantoff, Chair of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Department of Medicine, said in an interview that it is complex to understand the various factors that might affect the risk and outcome of prostate cancer. “Prostate cancer in Blacks tends to have biological characteristics associated with more aggressive disease,” he said. “There is evidence suggesting that this is partly related to inherited genetic factors.”
Most men with early prostate cancer don’t have any symptoms, therefore the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that men have a chance to make an informed decision with their health care provider about whether to be screened for prostate cancer. Men who are aged 40 years old with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age are at the highest risk of getting prostate cancer.
Dr. Kosj Yamoah, a radiation oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center said in an interview that Black men don’t just get this disease more often than White men. They also tend to get it at an earlier age. “A prostate cancer that starts at age 40 and spreads by age 50 is unlike the one that shows up first at age 70 -- one you never have to worry about,” said Yamoah. It’s advised that Black men aged 40-45- speak to their GP about their risk of prostate cancer. There is some research suggesting that your PSA level in your 40s could be used to predict how likely you are to get prostate cancer or fast-growing (aggressive) prostate cancer, later in life.
Sadly, Black men face unique barriers when it comes to diagnosis. There is a historical lack of access to insurance and medical care for Black people in the U.S. A 2020 study found that over a median follow-up period of 7.6 years, 59.9% of Black men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer experienced progression of the disease compared to 48.3% non-Hispanic White men, suggesting that prostate cancer may be more aggressive in Black men. A 2021 study into the heredity of prostate cancer found 86 new genetic risk variants. The study found that men of African ancestry had an estimated mean genetic risk score (GRS) more than two times higher than men of European ancestry.
According to the ACS, at least 42% of newly diagnosed cancers are potentially avoidable including the 19% caused by smoking and the 18% that are caused by being overweight or obese and this includes prostate cancer. Exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a heart-healthy diet can help reduce your risk of prostate cancer.
Active surveillance is an approach in which low-risk prostate cancer is not treated with surgery or radiation therapy. Active surveillance is increasingly the treatment option of choice for low-risk prostate cancer. But because Black men are more likely to develop more aggressive prostate cancer, active surveillance may be less appropriate for many Black men. Better data is needed to help Black men with prostate cancer as currently Black men have been underrepresented in active surveillance studies.
There are many treatment choices such as surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and ultrasoundand learning about the options for your prostate cancer will help you make the right decision. Immunotherapy is a type of immune system treatment that helps the immune system fight prostate cancer. Cryotherapy has been used by some doctors to freeze prostate cancer cells.
Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies. She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.
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