One out of nine American men are likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. However, 74 percent of African American men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than White men and are twice as likely to die from the disease. In honor of National Minority Health month, the Los Angeles Sentinel spoke with Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) CEO and President, Dr. Johnathan Simons about the disparity of the disease and how men of African descent can better their chances of prevention.
For over 25 years, PCF has upheld its reputation as the world’s leading philanthropic organization with accelerated prostate cancer research. Additionally, the organization has raised more than $700 million to support 2,000 research projects like the African-American Health Disparities Research Initiative.
This April, PCF is increasing its efforts by encouraging African American men to participate in their new campaign, “Know the Numbers.” The campaign is comprised of a large social media push, which will allow the public to participate in an online prostate cancer quiz on the organization’s website; www.pcf.org/knowthenumbers. Through the website, people are able to download free life-saving and life-changing informational resources. The organization has two campaign goals; bring attention to the disease and close the disparity gap!
Recently, actor and comedian Chris Tucker announced his partnership with the organization as its new spokesperson for the “Know the Numbers” campaign.
“It was shocking for me to learn that African-American men have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers and that prostate cancer is the number one diagnosed cancer among veterans,” said Tucker in a statement.
So why are African American men more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer?
Age is one the biggest risk factors next to family history, genetic factors, race, lifestyle, and where you live.
“The average age at diagnosis of prostate cancer in the United States is 69 years and after that age the chance of developing prostate cancer becomes more common than any other cancer in men or women,” said prostate cancer scientist and oncologist Simons. [Next], there are genes, or families that are at a much higher risk.
“The Western diet, the same diet that can cause diabetes and high blood pressure, in combination with those genes gives you a much higher risk. A man with a father or brother who developed prostate cancer has a twofold-increased risk for developing it. This risk is further increased if the cancer was diagnosed at a younger age less than 55 years of age, or affected three or more family members. [Also,] it turns out breast cancer and ovarian cancer in your family raises your lifetime risk of getting prostate cancer.”
Symptoms and Prevention
According to Simons, the majority of the time there are no warning signs for prostate cancer…that’s the problem.
“Because the gland is inside the body and doesn’t push against anything to cause pain. You can have blood in your urine, you can have blood in your semen, but it’s not that common. Most of the time [prostate cancer] is painless,” he said.
Other possible symptoms may include:
Since prostate cancer is often seen as a silent killer, PCF encourages African American men over the age of 40 to get screened!
“The whole idea of National Minority Health Month is being aware of prostate cancer. A man in his 40’s who is African American should be aware that he should be checked for prostate cancer once a year,” said Simons.
Simons also encourages African American men to advocate for their health when speaking to their physicians.
“Some doctors aren’t asking [men to get screened for prostate cancer], 40 just looks too young to be asking about a disease like prostate cancer,” he said.
Prevention is a vital key in lessening one’s chances of getting prostate cancer. Some prevention tools include diet, exercising on a regular basis, and going to annual check-up’s. Additionally, African-American men over the age of 40 should get a digital rectal exam and a prostate-specific-antigen (PSA test).
“Prostate cancer is the number one cancer that’s affected by being obese, being overweight increases your chances,” he said.
“A healthy diet is three or four serving of fruits or vegetables a day. Basically, a healthy diet that is also heart-healthy. A heart-healthy diet is the best diet to reduce your chances of prostate cancer.”
Prostate Cancer & Family Support
Many African American men avoid scheduling and attending their annual check-ups and other doctor appointments for various reasons, which results in many men suffering in silence. To help combat this issue, PCF is asking family members to get involved and encourage the men in their family to get screened.
“Families need fathers and grandfathers and if you have a resistant father, brother, and grandfather make it impossible for them not to get a check-up once a year,” said Simons.
“It’s a real cultural problem and you can save the life of someone who you love. If you are a daughter or a wife or a girlfriend, mother, or a grandmother you can save the life of somebody by getting them checked once a year.”
It’s time to get educated, screened, and “Know the Numbers!” Celebrate National Minority Health Month by getting yourself or someone you know screened for prostate cancer. For more information of prostate cancer treatment options, early detection, and much more please visit www.pcf.org to download informational packets or call (1-800)757-CURE (2873) to speak to a representative.