According to research, prostate cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among men worldwide. Now, while cancer doesn’t discriminate, it appears that prostate cancer is much harsher on men of color.

Black men and prostate cancer

What does the research say?

  • According to a study published in Cancer Reports, African Americans have higher rates of prostate cancer and are more likely to die from the disease than other groups in the United States.
  • A separate study published in JAMA found that though African American men face a greater risk of prostate cancer progression, the increased risk does not translate to an increased risk of death.
  • Urological surgeon Professor Frank Chinegwundoh revealed that;
    • Black men in the UK are 2-3 times more likely to develop prostate cancer,
    • The death rate is twice as high
    • Black men in the UK are more likely to develop prostate cancer at a younger age
  • Black South African men face a higher risk of prostate cancer (1)

Why are black men more at risk?

“It is a health disparity that needs to be addressed. Considerable money, time, and effort have gone into studies in men of European ancestry; it is time for a large-scale effort devoted to men of African ancestry.”

Christopher Haiman, ScD, Professor of Preventive Medicine at Keck School of Medicine.

Photo by The Lazy Artist Gallery from Pexels

1. Genetics

According to a study published in Cancer Discovery, there may be a genetic reason behind black men experiencing a more aggressive form of prostate cancer.

2. Lack of PSA tests

PSA refers to the amount of protein prostate-specific antigen in your blood. According to experts, high levels of PSA are associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Therefore, it’s important for men to get the test done.

Unfortunately,  black men are significantly less likely than white men to use early detection screening tools, like prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing for prostate cancer (2).

3. Racial bias

A study published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities found that previous bias and fear of black men likely resulted in them not getting the same healthcare as white male patients.

Additionally, another study found that black men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer were less likely than white men to receive any type of treatment for that cancer.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

black men

Photo by Zack Jarosz from Pexels

According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the following signs may indicate that you have prostate cancer;

  • Burning or pain during urination
  • Difficulty urinating, or trouble starting and stopping while urinating
  • More frequent urges to urinate at night
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Decreased flow and velocity of the urine stream
  • Blood in urine 
  • Blood in semen
  • Difficulty getting an erection 
  • Painful ejaculation 

How can black men protect themselves?

1. Eat more tomatoes

According to a study published in Cancer Causes Control, men who consumed canned and cooked tomatoes five to six times a week had a 28 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer compared with men who never consumed tomatoes.

What’s so special about tomatoes?

Well, it’s all thanks to the powerful antioxidant lycopene. The compound has strong anti-cancer properties, and it’s particularly effective against the growth of prostate cancer cells (3).

If you’re not a fan of tomatoes, lycopene can also be found in watermelon, papaya, pink grapefruit, and pink guava.

2. Exercise

Staying active is important for overall health, and it could also be great for your prostate health.

A study published in European Urology found that men who frequently engaged in vigorous activity over the course of the study had a 30% lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer, and a 25% lower risk of developing lethal prostate cancer when compared with men who exercised the least.

3. Quit smoking

Smoking is horrible for your health, and it’s possibly worse for your thyroid. A study published in JAMA found that prostate cancer patients who smoked were 89% likely to die of their disease than nonsmokers. Additionally, there was a 151% higher risk that their cancers would spread.

However, the good news is that Johns Hopkins Medicine found that men who quit smoking reduce their risk of dying from the disease (4).

4. Get screened

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every 1,000 men between the ages of 55 and 69 years old who are screened, about 1 death will be prevented, and 3 men will be prevented from getting prostate cancer that spreads to other places in the body (5).

Given the racial disparities regarding prostate cancer, it’s clear that regular screening will help save black lives.

References

Deka, R., Courtney, P. T., Parsons, J. K., Nelson, T. J., et al. (2020). Association Between African American Race and Clinical Outcomes in Men Treated for Low-Risk Prostate Cancer With Active Surveillance. JAMA324(17), 1747–1754. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.17020
Dovey, Z. S., Nair, S. S., Chakravarty, D., & Tewari, A. K. (2021). Racial disparity in prostate cancer in the African American population with actionable ideas and novel immunotherapies. Cancer reports (Hoboken, N.J.), e1341. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1002/cnr2.1340
Fraser, G. E., Jacobsen, B. K., Knutsen, S. F., Mashchak, A.,et al. (2020). Tomato consumption and intake of lycopene as predictors of the incidence of prostate cancer: the Adventist Health Study-2. Cancer causes & control : CCC31(4), 341–351. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10552-020-01279-z
Foerster, B., Pozo, C., Abufaraj, M., Mari, A., et al. (2018). JAMA oncology4(7), 953–961. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.1071
Huang, F. W., Mosquera, J. M., Garofalo, A., Oh, C., et al. (2017). Exome Sequencing of African-American Prostate Cancer Reveals Loss-of-Function ERF Mutations. Cancer discovery7(9), 973–983. https://doi.org/10.1158/2159-8290.CD-16-0960
Mirahmadi, M., Azimi-Hashemi, S., Saburi, E., Kamali, H.et al. (2020). Potential inhibitory effect of lycopene on prostate cancer. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie129, 110459. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2020.110459
Pernar, C. H., Ebot, E. M., Pettersson, A., Graff, R. E., et al. (2019). A Prospective Study of the Association between Physical Activity and Risk of Prostate Cancer Defined by Clinical Features and TMPRSS2:ERG. European urology76(1), 33–40. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eururo.2018.09.041
Plaisime, M. V., Malebranche, D. J., Davis, A. L., & Taylor, J. A. (2017). Healthcare Providers’ Formative Experiences with Race and Black Male Patients in Urban Hospital Environments. Journal of racial and ethnic health disparities4(6), 1120–1127. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40615-016-0317-x

Want to know more?

Racial disparities aren’t only present in prostate cancer. In fact, various studies have found that fibroids can disproportionately affect women of color. With that said, how can black women protect themselves against fibroids?

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba is a beauty and wellness writer who has a passion for poetry, equality, natural hair, and skin-care. With a journalism degree from Pearson's Institute of Higher Education, and identifiable by either her large afro or colorful locks, Pie aspires to continuously provide the latest information, be it beauty or wellness, on how one can adopt a healthy lifestyle on a day-to-day basis.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.