One in nine American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes. For African Americans, the risk is higher: one in six. In addition, African American men:

  • Are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as white men.
  • Get prostate cancer at a younger age.
  • Tend to be diagnosed when their cancer is more advanced.
  • Tend to have a more severe type of cancer.

As with many conditions, early detection can make a difference. And, that holds true for men of all races and ethnicities. In fact, the five-year relative survival rate for men whose prostate cancer has not spread is nearly 100%—including 97% for African American men.

Know your risk

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and Clinical Research Pathways is seizing the opportunity to urge you to learn more about your risk factors for prostate cancer. The place to start is with your healthcare provider.

Currently, there is no standard, recommended test to screen for prostate cancer. Instead, experts advise that you talk with your healthcare provider about your risk factors and the possible benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening.

When should you have this discussion? American Cancer Society recommendations are as follows:

  • Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years.
  • Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer younger than age 65.
  • Age 40 for men at even higher risk—those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer younger than age 65.

More support for early detection

Research suggests that biological factors might play a role in higher mortality rates among African American men with low-grade prostate cancer. One recent study found that African Americans are more likely to die of low-grade prostate cancer than men of other races—a disparity that does not exist among men with high-grade prostate cancer.

Another study found a difference in the genomic traits of tumors in African American men with low-grade prostate cancer. These traits indicated that the cancer was more likely to spread. Here, again, researchers did not find this racial disparity in men with high-grade prostate cancer.

Both studies underscore the importance of early detection, especially among African Americans whose low-grade disease might require more aggressive treatment.