By Dylan Deprey
Why are Black men more susceptible to prostate cancer? The question has baffled the best cancer researchers around the world.
It was reported in 2015 that black men were twice as likely to be diagnosed with Prostate cancer and die then white men. So why?
Could it be socioeconomic issues like lack of proper healthcare or insurance? Could it be the lack of a healthy diet?
The questions are endless, and the true cause of prostate cancer has yet to be found, but one question has been answered… kind of.
Dr. Michael Ittmann and his team of researchers at Baylor College of Medicine looked into possible genetic disparities between African Americans and European Americans. He explained the experiment to a room full of doctors, nurses and patients at Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) Clinical CancerCenter Dec. 2.
“We found 24 genes that were different between the African American and the European American prostate cancer datasets. Some of the genes were less active in African American prostate cancer, but we concentrated on those that were more active as they could potentially be oncogenes,” Ittmann said.
The lab labeled MNX1 as an oncogene, which is a gene that can cause cancer. When it came down to differences between black and white men with prostate cancer, MNX1 was more active in black men.
“MNX1 was at the top of the list,” Ittmann said.
He added that prostate cancer was more aggressive in black men then in euro-american men.
Dr. Liam Wang, professor of Pathology and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at MCW, invited Dr. Ittmann to explain his and his team’s research.
“By bringing in research leaders like Dr. Ittmann, we strengthen the work we’re doing to address prostate cancer from both a biological and social standpoint,” Wang said.
There have also been recent studies involving socioeconomic issues. Dr. Dr. Kirsten Beyer, PhD, assistant professor works in cancer geography. She recently mapped prostate cancer incidence, late-stage incidence, and mortality from the seven counties in the Froedtert & MCW Clinical Cancer Center area.
“African American men in the greater Milwaukee area, and in particular in Milwaukee’s central city, have significantly higher rates of prostate cancer. When we look at late-stage incidence and mortality from prostate cancer, those disparities become even more significant,” Beyer said in a press release.
Behind skin cancer, Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, especially those age 65 and older. The average age of diagnoses is 66, and is rarely diagnosed before age 40, according to the American Cancer Society.
With a success rate of more than 2.9 million men, Prostate cancer is fairly easy to treat if caught in early detection. Ironically it is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men.
Prostate Cancer symptoms can stay under the radar for years. Symptoms include:
When the prostate expands due to cancerous cells, it sends prostatespecific antigen (PSA) in a man’s bloodstream, and pre-screening can be done for exceeding amounts.
Another precaution is the digital rectal exam (DRE). The DRE is a little more common knowledge as an adult male during a physical in which the doctor puts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland.
Research is also being done on socioeconomic roadblocks for African American men from screenings, early detection and treatment by the MCW Medicine department and Department of Family and Community Medicine and the Institute for Health and Society. Dr. Melinda Stolley and Dr. Staci Young have been collecting data by speaking to patients, survivors and those who don’t have the disease.
“It’s important we also speak with men who have not had prostate cancer so we understand baseline knowledge of the disease and attitudes toward screening, which may help us determine why so many more African American men are diagnosed at a late stage,” Stolley said in a press release.