Black men are less willing to be tested for prostate cancer even though they are more likely to develop it, a study has found. Although black men are around 35 per cent more likely to die from the disease than white men in the UK, just 44 per cent of black males deemed a low risk opted for investigation compared with 91 per cent of white males, researchers at the universities of Exeter and Bristol and University College London discovered.

2 Mar 2015
In - Policy 1 in 4

More than 500 men, attending general practices in Bristol, were part of a study where they were presented with realistic hypothetical scenarios - each included a description of a prostate cancer symptom and the estimated risk of prostate cancer. The researchers found that preference for investigation was lower in black men irrespective of the risk presented in the scenario. This difference was strongest in relation to the scenarios associated with the lowest risk level, with just 44 per cent of black males opting for investigation compared with 91 per cent of white males. In both groups, the most common reason for declining investigation was low risk, but significantly more black men stated that they simply did not want to know if they had cancer.

Tony Wong, African and African Caribbean project manager at Prostate Cancer UK, said: "We've known for some time that black men are often reluctant to be tested for prostate cancer and it's a real worry. With one in four black men set to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime and still so much we don't know about why black men face a higher than average risk, or what can be done about it, this is an issue that needs addressing now.

"We urgently need black men to come forward to take part in research to help find the answers. Until then, awareness of risk is a man's best line of defence. So if you are a black man over the age of 45, it is important that you have a conversation with your GP about your risk and what to do about it."

Tanimola Martins, who led the study at the University of Exeter Medical School, said: "For the first time, this study has found evidence that black men are less willing than white men to be tested for the disease. GPs should be aware of the reduced appetite for testing in black males, which may be linked to fear and a perception that treatment may lead to severe complications. Doctors could consider proactively discussing the subject. Education targeted at the black community and the health professionals who treat them may also help to address this.”

Dr Jonathan Banks, one of the study’s co-authors from the University of Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care, said: “The findings help us understand some of the reasons why black males have a lower preference for investigation in prostate cancer. We hope these findings may lead to new ways to help educate the black community and the health professionals who treat them about symptoms and the importance of early investigation.”

This study was published on 2 March in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP).

Errol McKellar, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010, and Specialist Nurse, Suresh Rambaran also discussed this study on BBC London's breakfast show with Paul Ross and Penny Smith. Listen to it here (from 1hr 51)

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