Understanding Racial Disparities Among Prostate Cancer Patients

Black man smiling

Black Americans are more likely to suffer and die from prostate cancer. Here is what you should know.

According to the American Cancer Society, one in seven Black men will have prostate cancer at some point during life, compared to one in nine white men. Of those, one in 25 Black men will die of the disease, while only one of 45 white men will.

“Unfortunately, this racial disparity trend hasn’t changed over time,” said Martha K. Terris, MD, Witherington Distinguished Professor and Chair in Urology with Augusta University Health. ”That makes it all the more important for patients to be screened.”

Low-Grade Disparity

Like other cancers, a diagnosis of prostate cancer is graded. Low-grade prostate cancer indicates a slow-growing cancer is less likely to spread beyond the prostate. Low-grade diagnoses are where the disparity seems greatest.

In many cases of low-grade cancer, it is common to treat with active watching and waiting, which effectively monitors the cancer over time to make sure it doesn’t grow outside of the prostate and affect other organs. While watchful waiting is often an effective plan for white men, it does not seem as effective for Black men, who are twice as likely to die from low-grade prostate cancer than their white peers.

Prostate Tests Can Change the Disparity

Though it is unclear why Black men are more likely to die from low-grade prostate cancer, preventive screenings offer hope.

“The cure rates for Black men is positive if the cancer is caught early,” Dr. Terris said. “Therefore, it’s important for Black men to be screened for prostate cancer annually, beginning at age 40.”

Depending on personal and family health history, men may be recommended for one or both prostate examinations, which include:

Digital Rectal Examination—A physician can manually feel the prostate gland for growths that may indicate prostate cancer.

Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Test—With a quick blood draw from the arm, physicians can determine the amount of PSA that is present in the blood. High levels of PSA may indicate prostate cancer.

In the event prostate cancer is diagnosed, the physician will determine an appropriate treatment regimen.

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About the author

Augusta University Health

Based in Augusta, Georgia, Augusta University Health is a world-class health care network, offering the most comprehensive primary, specialty and subspecialty care in the region. Augusta University Health provides skilled, compassionate care to its patients, conducts leading-edge clinical research and fosters the medical education and training of tomorrow’s health care practitioners. Augusta University Health is a not-for-profit corporation that manages the clinical operations associated with Augusta University.