By Allan Bucka Jones
PRIDE Health Columnist
One in eight men in Canada are affected by prostate cancer. Black men have even higher rates. Black men are far more likely to develop and die of prostate cancer than any other race. In a recently published study in JAMA Oncology, which was conducted in the United States, the findings may help to explain this disparity.
In the study, the investigators analyzed data from 3,398 black men and 22,673 non-Hispanic white men who had participated in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT). The analysis revealed that black men were more likely to have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, indicating obesity.
When the researchers compared blacks and whites with a normal BMI of 25 or less, they found that the black men were 28 percent more likely to have prostate cancer. Among men with a BMI of 35 or higher, black men were 103 percent more likely than whites to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Both black and white men with a BMI of 35 or higher were more likely to have high-grade cancer than men with a BMI of 25 or lower, 81 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
Obesity was associated with a 122 percent increased risk of low-grade prostate cancer in obese black men. Their white counterparts had a 20 percent reduced risk.
These findings do not prove that obesity is responsible for the racial disparity in prostate cancer risk, but they offer further impetus for black men to lose weight and keep it off. A healthy body weight can be achieved by exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes for five days per week. This exercise habit is helpful to ward off or keep under control many health problems, like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, many other unhealthy situations and possibly prostate cancer.
For all men 45 years old and more, screening for prostate cancer is vital because once detected, 90% of prostate cancer cases are treatable. The screening process, which includes a prostate gland examination and a blood test, should be part of a man’s annual check-up.
There are two critical tests to screen for prostate cancer:
PSA Test (Prostate Specific Antigen test) – PSA is a protein made by the cells of the prostate gland. PSA is mostly found in semen, but it is also normal to find small amounts of PSA in the blood of healthy men. The PSA test measures the amount of PSA in a blood sample taken from the man’s arm. A small amount of blood is taken and the process is relatively painless. The test may be done when the doctor suspects prostate cancer because of a man’s health history or the results of a physical examination. A PSA test may also detect early prostate cancer in men who do not have symptoms.
An increased PSA level does not necessarily mean that a man has prostate cancer. Only about 1 in 4 men with an abnormal PSA result will actually have prostate cancer. The other three will have a benign condition, such as prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) or an enlarged prostate gland (BPH). PSA acts as a tumour marker (a substance that can be found in the body when cancer is present). Doctors watch the trend rather than a single PSA reading. Your doctor is best able to interpret the result of your PSA test. If you are 45 or older you should do the PSA test, at least once a year. Men should abstain from sex at least 72 hours before doing a PSA test, as there is evidence to indicate that the PSA reading can be negatively affected.
Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) – A digital rectal examination is done to check the consistency of the prostate gland in men. The doctor checks for enlargement of the prostate gland and other abnormalities. A non-cancerous prostate gland would feel spongy and a cancerous gland would have a lumpy granular feel. There are situations when the prostate can feel normal but is cancerous. A DRE is often done with a PSA test to detect prostate cancer early.
Many men do not want to do this examination because it involves inserting at least two inches of a gloved finger into the man’s rectum. Entry through the rectum, is the best access point to manipulate and feel the prostate gland. My advice to these men, is to get over this fear or phobia because the digital rectal examination could save your life.
Keep fit by exercising, maintain a healthy weight, and you may be reducing your risk of developing prostate cancer.
Allan Bucka Jones is a Health Promoter and Broadcaster. You can contact Allan Bucka Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.