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While Other Cancers See Declines in Diagnosis and Death Rates, Prostate Cancer Reaches Historic Highs



Ilana Ostrin, Media Relations

For the second year, significant increases in diagnoses and mortalities and continued racial disparities bring renewed urgency to prostate cancer fight

 (Washington, D.C., Jan. 13, 2021) – A new report shows that prostate cancer continues to be one of the most prevalent cancers among men nationwide, with an alarming 30% rise in new cases anticipated in 2021 and a 2.4% increase in deaths. More than 25% of the men who pass from cancer will be prostate cancer patients. These historic highs mean that nearly 250,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and more than 34,100 men will pass from the disease.

“Men didn’t need another reason to avoid the doctor in 2020, but unfortunately, COVID-19 gave them one. The lack of access to screening has real and devastating consequences. This year, a man will die from prostate cancer every 15 minutes. The increase in deaths shows that more men are not getting diagnosed early enough,” said Jamie Bearse, ZERO CEO and President. “The 30% increase in new cases is likely, in part, due to men deferring annual checkups because of the pandemic. We expect 2022 figures will be even higher and more troubling.”

Notably, the report shows that Black men with prostate cancer continue to face disproportionate diagnoses and deaths. The incidence of prostate cancer is almost 80% higher in non-Hispanic Black men than in non-Hispanic white men and the death rate for Black men with prostate cancer is more than double that of men in every other population.  

“The acute pandemic of COVID-19, on top of the chronic systemic inequalities built into the United States healthcare system and society at large, have had a significantly negative impact on cancer care,” said Dr. Kelvin Moses, a urologist and professor at Vanderbilt University who is a member of ZERO’s Medical Advisory Board, Board of Directors, and ZERO’s Racial Disparities Task Force. “Many people living with cancer were at increased risk of COVID-19 infection, and had to delay care due to stress placed on the medical system. Additionally, decreased screening and diagnosis during this time has likely led to a greater number of undiagnosed cancers, predisposing to presentation at a later stage. The continued lack of response on the federal level to the COVID-19 crisis is compounding a problem that will continue to manifest in the coming months in the form of death and disability, not only from COVID-19, but also cancer. It is important for all citizens to take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as continue to be vigilant of their healthcare by receiving the screening and treatment needed for cancer.”

As the nation’s leading nonprofit in the fight against prostate cancer, ZERO recognizes that only when we can solve the growing health equity divide for those with the highest risk, can we end this disease together. To achieve this, ZERO formed a racial disparities task force and is actively recruiting for a Director of Health Equity to help address these challenges. Through enhanced education, awareness, and engagement, clinical trial advocacy, and financial assistance and other patient support, ZERO is collaborating with community and faith-based leaders, health care providers, clinics, and other advocacy groups to reduce and ultimately eliminate existing disparities.

Dennis Stanley is a prostate cancer patient in Virginia and ZERO Champion who has been battling the disease during COVID-19 who shared that, “As a Black man, I have conversations with men all the time that don’t want to talk about prostate cancer. But once I put my truth out there, it gives them the freedom to open up and share what they’ve been going through.” Stanley says that when he thinks of the men who will pass from the disease this year, he wonders “of the almost 35,000 men … how many of them would still be alive if they just went and got their PSA test done?”

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a simple blood test. Early detection saves lives, but unfortunately, decades of mixed messaging about the PSA test have left both doctors and men confused about the importance of testing. As a result, fewer men are taking initiative regarding their prostate health, which is directly contributing to more deaths from prostate cancer year over year.

“These numbers are very concerning and do require a careful look,” says Dr. Charles Ryan, a member of ZERO’s Medical Advisory Board and an oncologist and professor at the University of Minnesota. “Despite many new treatments and diagnostics for prostate cancer that are improving the lives of men with the disease, we continue to face a potential rising incidence. This may be due to population growth, the aging population, and potentially due to decreases in screening over the past decade. Continued research on these questions of biology, policy, and society are critical now and moving forward.”

ZERO is combating the rising statistics by making prostate cancer screenings (including PSA tests) affordable and accessible. The “ZERO Cost to Prostate Cancer Screening” initiative is a nationwide effort to pass legislation in each state that makes prostate cancer screenings akin to other cancer screenings that are devoid of cost (ovarian, breast, etc.) As a result of this initiative, Maryland and New York became the first two states to pass critical legislation to remove prostate cancer screening cost-sharing for men. Additionally, ZERO works to educate and provide support resources among high-risk communities like Veterans, who have a risk of prostate cancer that’s about double that of civilians.

To join the fight against prostate cancer, sign up for the 2021 Virtual ZERO Prostate Cancer Summit. For more information, support, and resources in the fight against prostate cancer, visit zerocancer.org. Read the referenced report here.

About ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer

For 25 years, ZERO — The End of Prostate Cancer has served as the leading national nonprofit with the mission to end prostate cancer. ZERO advances research, improves the lives of men and families, and inspires action. We’re building Generation ZERO, the first generation of men free from prostate cancer, through our national run/walk series, education and patient support programs, and grassroots advocacy. ZERO is a 501(c)(3) philanthropic organization recognized with four out of four stars by Charity Navigator, accredited by the Better Business Bureau, with regional chapters across the country. We dedicate 85 cents of every dollar to research and programs. To learn more, visit zerocancer.org.