Happy senior African American man patient recovering in hospital bed with male doctor and wife

Black men are twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men. U.S. government scientists said they are launching a study to try and discover why.

The aim is to gather samples from 10,000 prostate cancer patients to see if genes, stress, segregation or other factors account for the higher rates of the disease in African-American men, the National Institutes of Health said.

“Understanding why African-American men are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer than men of other racial and ethnic groups is a critical, unanswered question in cancer disparities research,” said Dr. Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute, in a statement.

The $26.5 million study, part of the Obama administration’s 21st Century Cures Cancer Moonshot initiative, will be a joint effort among the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, both part of NIH institutes, as well as the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Prostate cancer is diagnosed in about 164,000 American menevery year. It kills about 29,000 a year, according to the American Cancer Society.

“African-American men have about a 15 percent chance of developing prostate cancer in their lifetimes, compared to about a 10 percent chance for white men, and African-American men are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive disease,” the NIH said.

“In addition, the risk of dying from prostate cancer for African-American men is about 4 percent compared to about 2 percent for white men.”

Any number of factors could explain the differences, said Damali Martin, who will help direct NCI’s work on the study.

“The ability to integrate genetic and environmental factors, including individual, neighborhood and societal factors, into one large study will enable us to have a better understanding of how all of these factors contribute to the aggressiveness of prostate cancer,” Martin said.

The team will find the 10,000 participants using cancer database information.

“No group in the world is hit harder by prostate cancer than men of African descent, and to date, little is known about the biological reasons for these disparities, or the full impact of environmental factors,” said Dr. Jonathan Simons, CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

About screening

Most prostate cancers found by screening are small and slow growing and may not be fatal. Some men may have a faster growing prostate cancer and will benefit from early treatment.

Older men, African-American men and men who have a family history of prostate cancer have a greater risk for developing prostate cancer. If you are concerned that you may have a greater risk, talk to your doctor about screening. Medical groups do not agree on screening recommendations.

One screening test is a blood test, which can be abnormal for several reasons besides prostate cancer. The only way to know if an abnormal test is due to cancer is to do a biopsy, a surgery to get small pieces of the prostate to look at under a microscope. If the biopsy shows there are cancer cells, your doctor will discuss treatment options.

Source: CDC