Health equity can only be achieved when every person has equal opportunity to attain his or her full health potential. Health disparities are differences experienced by one group relative to another in rates of disease, severity of disease, length of life, quality of life, access to treatment, and death. In order to achieve health equity, health disparities must be actively addressed and eliminated. Achieving health equity starts with identifying those at higher risk of disease.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in Black men in the United States. Not only are Black men more likely to get prostate cancer, but they are also more likely to be diagnosed with advanced disease than white men. In fact, Black men are 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 2.1 times more likely to die from the disease.
Recent research suggests that these differences in health outcomes are likely caused by several factors within the U.S. healthcare system including access to care, insurance status, racial biases, and distrust in the medical system – it cannot be solely explained by genetic differences.
Due to the increased risk that Black men face, prostate cancer screening guidelines in the United States have changed in recent years. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends that Black men and individuals with a family history should begin having these conversations with their healthcare provider as early as age 40. These conversations should include a discussion of risks and benefits of screening, as well as the importance of the PSA blood test and the DRE (digital rectal exam) and the benefits of both tests in detecting prostate cancer.
Encouraging research shows that once diagnosed with prostate cancer, Black men have similar treatment outcomes as other men diagnosed at the same stage. What this tells us is that raising awareness of these early detection and screening guidelines may help reduce racial disparities in prostate cancer deaths and help diagnose prostate cancer in its earliest stages. Prostate cancer is 99% survivable if caught before it progresses, so early detection and access to quality healthcare are key.
ZERO leads a variety of advocacy efforts at both the federal and the state level. These range from prevention efforts aimed at the most high-risk men, increased research dollars specifically for prostate cancer, and making prostate cancer screening accessible and affordable.
These efforts have clear results, including ongoing protection and expansion of the federal Prostate Cancer Research Program, state-level legislation requiring group health insurance plans to cover preventative screening costs, and a national movement within local governments to issue official recognitions about prostate cancer.
It’s important to know you are not alone. Navigating prostate cancer can be difficult and emotional. Below are a variety of support resources you and your family might find helpful.
Get resources for patients, videos from the 2021 ZERO Racial Disparities in Prostate Cancer Symposium, links to peer-reviewed articles, and more at the racial disparities educational resources page.