30 Jul 2015

Black men are unaware that they’re twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as white men. This needs to change.

Guest blogger Dr Alison Cooper, Senior Research Analyst at Prostate Cancer UK, gives us the lowdown on the results of her research, published today in the journal BMC Medicine, what they mean for men, and what we plan to do about it. 

One in four Black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. One in twelve will die from it.

Proportionally, more Black men are dying from prostate cancer in the UK than white men. In fact, Black men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with, and die from, prostate cancer.

It’s vital we understand the reasons behind why this is the case, which is why we’re funding two key pieces of research in this area. Dr Christine Galustian from King’s College London is investigating whether the absence of a protein called DARC (which helps slow the spread of cancer) in 60% of Black men is linked to a higher risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer. Dr Myra McClure from Imperial College is taking a different approach, and determining whether viral infection might have a role in prostate cancer development in Black men.

While the difference in the risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer between Black and white men is shocking, it is compounded by the fact that so few Black men are aware that they’re at increased risk. Only 8% of Black men in the UK know that they’re at higher than average risk of prostate cancer. Worse, 23% think that their risk is lower than average.

This clearly needs to change. Last year, we worked with NHS England on a ‘Be Clear on Cancer – Prostate Cancer’ awareness-raising pilot that headlined the one in four risk stat for Black men in six London Boroughs. It encouraged Black men to know their risk of prostate cancer and, if they were 45 and over, to talk to their GP about whether a PSA test was right for them. This pilot is being evaluated at the moment.

In the meantime, we’re taking advantage of the summer sun (we hope!) and taking to the streets to spread awareness of Black men’s increased risk of prostate cancer. Our ‘One in Four Tour’ will take a double decker bus, fully decked out with prostate cancer awareness messaging, to English cities with some of the highest Black populations.

So throughout August and September, we’ll be spending our weekends in Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham, Bristol and London. We’ll park our bus somewhere hard to miss and our volunteers, staff, researchers, health professionals and celebrity ambassadors will be catching the eye of chance passers by and convincing Black guys of 45 or older that talking to their GP about their risk of prostate cancer could save their life.