Prostate Problem Guide
Is Being Black Really A Prostate Cancer Risk Factor?
Statistics show that black men are more likely to die from prostate cancer than white men and most statisticians agree that race is a prostate cancer risk factor with African Americans two and a half times more like to die from prostate cancer than white Americans. But are these statistics misleading?
The answer to this question could come from a study conducted recently in North Carolina. The study involved a group of 253 white men and 84 black men between the ages of 40 and 75 who were diagnosed with prostate cancer between 2001 and 2004.
The study examined a number of factors including family history, symptoms, screening history, treatment, the existence of other medical conditions, access to care, attitudes towards health care and health care providers, employment, income and whether or not the men had health insurance.
The study found that 55 percent of the black men earned under $40,000 a year compared to 23 percent in the case of the white men. The study also found that black men were more likely to be educated to a lower standard, to have blue-collar jobs, to have co-existing medical conditions and to be unemployed because of illness or disability.
The study further found that only 3 percent of white men had no medical insurance at all, compared to 8 percent of black men and that just over 30 percent of white men has some form of supplemental Medicare coverage, compared to 17 percent of black men.
One particularly interesting finding was that both groups were equally well informed about both the risks of prostrate cancer and the need for treatment, but that the black men took greater responsibility for their own health and were less likely to trust their doctors. Indeed many of the black men stated that they were suspicious of their doctors and felt that the advice they were giving was more likely to be based on the cost of treatment than it was to be based upon patient needs.
On the important question of screening, black men were less likely to have regular check-ups, digital rectal examinations or prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests. It was also interesting to note that the study reported that black men were more than twice as likely to have had to ask for a PSA test that white men.
It is clear from this study that a marked different between the two groups lies in the lack of early detection in the case of black men and that this results to a significant degree from the fact that they do not have as well established relationships with their doctors, have poor access to convenient and affordable care and don't carry adequate health insurance.
Clearly it's difficult to put numbers to a study of this nature and further, and larger, studies need to be conducted to quantify the differenced between African Americans and white Americans. Nevertheless, it would seem that much of the difference does not lie in the fact that African Americans are more likely to develop prostate cancer but stems from the fact that they are more likely to die from the disease because of its late detection.
If the gap between the two groups in terms of the provision of healthcare were closed the statistics might well look very different.