Prostate Cancer and Race
Chris Regal | June 3, 2013
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the United States, second only to lung cancer. All men are affected by the condition, but African-American men, it turns out, have higher rates of both prostate cancer and overall death from the cancer. What does race have to do with the health of a man’s prostate? Probably more than you may think.
In a 2013 study from UNC at Chapel Hill, researchers found black men with prostate cancer wait a bit longer to begin treatment following a diagnosis than white men. On average, African-American men waited seven days longer than white men to begin treatment. As one may expect, delaying action in fighting the cancer could contribute to the increased mortality rate among black men with the disease.
Perception of risk
African-American men, Asians and Hispanics, have differing beliefs about cancer prevention and, according to some research, believe they are less likely to get cancer than Caucasians. A 2013 study from the Moffitt Cancer Center found cultural disparities within some minority populations, especially with regard to the risk of developing cancer.
Reluctance in screenings
In a random telephone survey by the Moffitt Cancer Center, researchers found Hispanics were nearly twice as likely to report being used as a “guinea pig” and distrust medical professionals than other ethnic groups. In particular, Hispanics were unwilling to participate in cancer screenings due to these concerns. The researchers suspect that a lack of education, in particular, may be to blame.
Disparities in surgery
Black men with prostate cancer may not be getting the same quality of care as white patients, according to research from the Henry Ford Hospital. Across the country, white patients were more likely to get prostatectomy surgery and to receive better quality of care during the procedure. African-American patients required higher rates of blood transfusions, had more complications, and longer hospital stays.
Access to doctors
The first line of defense against prostate cancer is an evaluation by a primary care doctor before seeing a specialist. However, new research indicates that black and Hispanic men in poorer neighborhoods don’t have the same access to primary care services. The Johns Hopkins University investigation found people in inner cities and rural areas were less likely to have primary care, reducing the likelihood of early detection.
Despite indications that prostate cancer is more common and more deadly among African-American men, prevention is not considered a significant issue in some lower-income areas. Obesity, tobacco use, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol intake and general health status all contribute to prostate cancer risk and are often tied to socio-economic status.