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Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the prostate, a gland organ situated before the rectum and under the bladder. In 2023, it was estimated there would be about 288,300 new cases diagnosed and about 34,700 deaths from prostate cancer. Unfortunately, race can increase the risk of developing this disease.
Black men are at higher risk of developing prostate cancer and twice as likely to die from it than other men.3 Alarmingly, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer (excluding basal and squamous cell skin cancers and in situ carcinoma with the exception of urinary bladder) among Black men, accounting for an estimated 41,600 new cases in 2022. Compared to men of other races, they are also more likely to get the disease at a younger age and are often diagnosed at a more advanced stage.3
Learning About the Health Disparity Gap
Social determinants of health, including cultural and economic disparities, can widen the diagnosis and treatment gap putting Black men at a disproportionate disadvantage. Race, socioeconomic status, geographic location, and insurance status can also impact treatment decisions and clinical outcomes for men with prostate cancer.
Despite the increased risk for Black men, research published in Family Medicine suggested that fewer than 30% of physicians routinely talked to Black patients about their prostate cancer risk.
Importance of Understanding Routine Screening
Prostate cancer symptoms can differ for each individual. However, most men may not have symptoms at all.8 Common symptoms include difficulty urinating, trouble emptying the bladder, blood in urine or semen, pain in the back, hips, or pelvis, and painful ejaculation. A patient experiencing any of these symptoms should see a doctor.
Routine screenings can find cancer that may be at risk for growing if not treated, and identify it early before it spreads. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends men have the opportunity to make an informed decision with their health care provider on whether to be screened for prostate cancer.
Black men should start conversations about routine screenings at age 45 or at 40 if they have more than one first-degree relative diagnosed at an early age.11 For men at average risk and who are expected to live at least ten more years, screening is suggested at age 50.11 It is important for patients to work with their healthcare team.
A More Informed Future
Ongoing research is essential to uncover how minorities are affected by certain diseases. “It is important to examine all factors that contribute to prostate cancer disparities, including socioeconomic factors, and to identify solutions at the community level for Black men,” said Thomas Farrington, founder and president of the advocacy organization, Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN). “Since PHEN’s founding in 2003, we have worked for a better understanding of the disease space, coupled with increased education and awareness. This can lead to earlier screenings and detection further narrowing prostate cancer racial disparities.”