Dear Dr. Levister: Is prostate cancer inevitably more deadly for African American men? What are the facts? K.R.
Dear K.R.: Prostate cancer is the leading cancer diagnosed in men in the United States. For reasons that are unclear, incidence rates are significantly higher in African American men than in white men.
Age, ethnicity and family history are the main risk factors for prostate cancer. With regards to ethnicity, African American men and Jamaican men of African descent have the highest prostate cancer incidence in the world.
Black American men may have a genetic predisposition to prostate cancer researchers say. But this is not enough to account for the rate at which they die of it compared to other American men.
African Americans are more likely than whites to be diagnosed at a later stage of cancer.
This may be due to factors such as less knowledge about cancer symptoms, they are not going to the doctor until they have late-stage disease, and reduced access to cancer screening services.
Later stage detection adds to lower cure rates and shorter survival.
Only 66% of African American men diagnosed with prostate cancer survive for five years, compared with 81% of white men.
Research shows that African- American men with prostate cancer live as long as White men after diagnosis if they receive the same treatment. Black men are not receiving adequate treatment.
Quality care is essential but African Americans also must get screened early if we want to reduce the number of cancer deaths. Prostate cancer screening is crucial for patients at highest risk of developing and dying from the disease at a relatively young age. If anyone must be screened, it is African American men.
As more White men hear about the PSA test and ask for it, the difference in stage of disease at diagnosis between African Americans and White Americans is widening. In essence, most of the extra suffering, stems from late diagnosis and a lack of proper healthcare.
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