Prostate Cancer and Black American Men

I had a great uncle, Walter Lee by name. He was quite an active guy. Even up into his nineties he was able bodied enough to shovel snow, in Nebraska and climb roofs to repair them. I would often marvel at how spry my uncle was. One day he told me that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was confident that he could overcome it but, in looking back, I believe that he had waited too long to get check up. The disease took him rather quickly. His decline and passing happened within a three week period. The following write is a overview of how prostate cancer inordinately affects black American men.

The Black male population in the U. S. A. is evidenced as displaying the highest amount of diagnosed prostate cancer. What are the dynamics of this phenomenon? What is prostate cancer and how do genetics influence the incidence of it occurring? Does lifestyle? Can physical activity mitigate its’ development? What steps can lead to a decreasing frequency of cancer? We can consider strategies that can reduce prostate cancer occurrence among black men.

The prostate gland is doughnut shaped and about the size of a walnut. Encompassing the urethra, the tube through which urine and semen flow, it gives rise to painful and difficult ejaculation and urination when cancerous. When afflicted with cancer, those cells can, and often do, migrate to other parts of the body. This cellular migration can cause deleterious effects on organs in other parts of the body.
Picture of a healthy prostate gland.

American black men exhibit the highest incidence of prostate cancer in the world – greater than 2 per 1,000 population. Between 1996 and 2000, in the United States, the age-adjusted death rate of prostate cancer among black men (0.7 per 1,000 population) was more than double that of non-Hispanic white men (0.3 per 1,000 population).[2,3]

Prostate cancer has been linked to the involvement of genetic factors”, says Dr. Walter Willett: Harvard School of Public Health, Boston. The epidemiology also suggests that there is something synchronous with diet and lifestyle in the development of prostate cancer.

The theory of the prostate cancer/testosterone link is that excess testosterone stimulates prostate growth when present in higher amounts; this is probably due to racial differences within the testosterone/testosterone receptor pathway. Research shows that African-american females exhibit 50% higher amounts of testosterone over white females. Consequently, black males, on average, have higher percentages of testosterone. A mutation in the testosterone receptor could, in part, contribute to the clinically observed, racial group differences in prostate cancer epidemiology, leading to the correlation between analyzed total testosterone and prostate cancer development.

Lifestyle studies reveal positive associations between fat intake and prostate cancer risks in relation to prostate cancer incidence among blacks, whites, and Asian-Americans. The data highlights African-American men consuming a higher percentage of calories, mostly from fat, than whites or Asian-Americans. However, insoluble fiber or roughage, a known cancer fighter, can assist in minimizing the ill effects of high fat diets.

Studies indicate that increased fiber intake decreases the risk of some cancers. Fiber’s protective effect leads to decreased retention of wastes in the body, resulting from added, fibrous bulk to your digestive system. Fiber supplemented diets lead to reduced tumor development. This may be a major factor for the low risk of prostate cancer in vegetarian diets. Of course, vegetarian diets are also rich in cancer-protective antioxidants.

What a nice way to start . . . . .
This looks great, doesn’t it??

The development of prostate cancer can be reduced through regular physical activity. With a diagnosed higher testosterone amount, vigorous activity may have a greater positive effect. Also, in men with prostate cancer, physical activity is associated with better survival. Modest amounts of vigorous activity, about three hours a week, could substantially improve prostate cancer survival.

Many treatments for prostate cancer can have detrimental effects on the body. Hormone therapy can lead to osteoporosis and loss of muscle mass; these conditions, however, can be improved through exercise and strength training. Other treatments, such as surgery, can cause urinary incontinence (inability to control urine flow). Kegel exercises before and after prostate cancer treatment strengthen the pelvic-floor muscles, thereby reducing incontinence. Consultation with a physician is recommended before starting any exercise regimen.

To be cared for
Woman taking man’s temperature in bed

A ‘disconnect’ from the healthcare system exists among black men. Braithwaite, discusses the prevalence of ‘stoicism’ as a possible explanation of why black men do not pursue regular check-ups and are reluctant to participate in health-related activities. More than likely, black men become “indifferent to pain/discomfort and do not seek healthcare services until absolutely necessary, most often in the emergency room”. Higher mortality from advanced prostate cancer is strongly associated with late detection. Lack of adequate health insurance, adherence to traditional male gender roles, avoiding possible poor prognoses, and overall distrust/mistrust of the medical community can be counted amongst ‘other’ contributing factors.

In short, there is a high degree of prostate cancer among African American males. Genetics, hormonal distributions, improper diet, inadequate exercise and infrequent check-ups are all implicated in developing prostate cancer. Adjustments to diet, exercise, and obtaining regular checkups could significantly contribute to lessening the impact of this disease amongst Black American men.

. . . . . and yes, I miss my Uncle Walter.

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