Study: Men of African descent at more risk for prostate cancer

Black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer compared with males of other races, the largest racial disparity in U.S. deaths from any cancer. A study sees a genetic component to the increased risk.

Healthcare disparities exacerbate disease differences between African-Americans and their white counterparts, and with prostate cancer, it’s no different.

According to The Washington Post, Black men have a worse prognosis for prostate cancer than their white counterparts. They have a higher risk of contracting and dying from the disease and experience longer wait times between diagnosis and treatment.

A recent study encompassing tens of thousands of men of African heritage and published in the journal European Urology connects the gap to increased genetic risk, including specific factors seen only in males of African ancestry.

Prostate cancer Black men
A recent study found that Black men have a worse prognosis for prostate cancer than their white counterparts. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Researchers used data from 10 studies involving more than 80,000 men of African heritage. They compared the genetic information of 19,378 men who had prostate cancer and 61,620 who did not. 

In analyzing the combined data, researchers found nine additional genetic variations connected to an elevated risk of prostate cancer in males of African descent. Seven of those variants are primarily present or exclusively in men of African heritage.

Men of African descent are the only ones with a particular variation in the human genome’s 8q24 region, previously deemed important in determining prostate cancer risk. It exhibited the highest correlation with aggressive prostate cancer of all the variations examined.

Researchers developed a scoring system using the data to assist in identifying men who were more at risk. They discovered that the scores could tell whether a man was more likely to develop aggressive or nonaggressive prostate cancer.

According to WebMD, prostate cancer accounts for about 37 percent of all malignancies in Black men. Around one in six will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in life.

Black men are twice as likely to die from the disease compared with males of other races, marking the largest racial disparity in deaths from any cancer in the United States.

The Post reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes there is no universal test to screen for prostate cancer. However, a specific antigen discovered in the blood can signal prostate cancer, and a digital examination of the rectum can reveal an atypical prostate.

In the future, researchers plan to create a genetic screening tool to assist men in assessing their risk for the disease and to understand more about the potential causes of the disease in men of African origin.

The recent study is the largest to examine genetic risk factors in men of African heritage. It reflects an effort to address a long-standing bias in prostate cancer research, much of which has neglected men with African ancestry.

“The vast majority of studies to date have been conducted in populations of European ancestry,” noted the study’s senior author, Christopher Haiman, The Post reported, “which creates a huge bias in our understanding of genetic risk for disease.”

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