Medical researchers led by University of Michigan doctors wanted to answer the question: Is black race associated with worse prostate cancer outcomes after controlling for variables such as access to care?
The question is important because African American men in the United States are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as Caucasian men. The reason for the disparity, in black and white men with similar stages of prostate cancer disease, has been unclear, particularly with regard to the contribution of biological versus non-biological differences.
The extensive University of Michigan study concluded that the reason for the prostate cancer outcome disparity isn’t that black men intrinsically and biologically harbor more aggressive disease. The study, published in the medical journal, JAMA Oncology, says that when provided the same access to treatment and care, black and white men have very similar cure rates. But black men get fewer prostate cancer screenings, are more likely to be diagnosed with later-stage cancer, and are less likely to have health insurance.
The study suggests that when it comes to African American prostate cancer, health care, and socioeconomic factors play a larger role than genetics.
This study is important to African American men and the physicians who treat them. The key takeaway is that now, more than ever, it is important for African American men to be proactive about their prostate health. A good first step in that direction is to initiate a discussion with a primary care physician or a urologist about the benefit of prostate cancer screening. The University of Michigan study reviewed data on 306,100 men — 54,840 black men — ages 59 to 71 from the Veterans Affairs system and four other clinical trials.
Click here for a link to a report about the study in JAMA Oncology
In commenting on the study, Dr. Channing Paller noted that for decades, black or African American race has been associated with worse outcomes for a number of diseases, including prostate cancer.
Cancer literature is replete with findings that prostate cancer and other cancers are more aggressive in black than white patients, Dr. Paller said, and such findings have raised the question of whether being African American imparts a worse prognosis for these diseases.
Thanks to the University of Michigan study, urologists and other physicians now have evidence that prostate cancer outcomes in African Americans are substantially linked to access to care rather than genetic factors.
Dr. Michael W. Dusing is a member of The Urology Group. He is a graduate of the University of Louisville School of Medicine. His urological practice is located in Crestview Hills.