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May 23, 2019

There's actually *not* a racial disparity when it comes to prostate cancer deaths, study finds

The reason seems to be tied to access, not genetics, as researchers debunk medical myth

Men's Health Prostate Cancer
study disproves disparity prostate cancer Caitlyn Wilson/Unsplash

Factors contributing to prostate cancer death seem to be less genetic, more socioeconomic.

Just as we know that illnesses can manifest differently in women than they do in men, they can also be more prevalent in certain races than others. But contrary to popular thinking, this does not seem to be the case for prostate cancer. 

A new study published Thursday in the journal JAMA Oncology found that African-American men are not, in fact, genetically predisposed to a higher risk of dying from prostate cancer than white men — contrary to past belief and evidence.

University of Michigan researchers examined data from 306,100 men – ages 59 to 71 – diagnosed with prostate cancer, NBC News reported. Of the subjects, 54,840 were black men.

RELATED READ: Study: Black patients less likely to seek post-injury physical therapy than whites

After factoring in things like socioeconomic status and cancer severity, the researchers determined that when given the same access to treatment and care, black and white men had very similar death rates, NBC reports. But that access seems to be the issue skewing the data. 

In a University of Michigan blog post on the study, co-author Dr. Daniel Spratt said:

“The data show that black men don’t appear to intrinsically and biologically harbor more aggressive disease,” Spratt says. “They generally get fewer PSA screenings, are more likely to be diagnosed with later stage cancer, are less likely to have health insurance, have less access to high-quality care and other disparities that can be linked to a lower overall socioeconomic status.”

Despite similar death rates, researchers said they found black men are more likely to die from health issues, in general, compared to white men: "Therefore, the greatest disparity to black men with prostate cancer is access to quality healthcare and guideline concordant care that are likely rooted in complex socio-cultural inequities in the US."

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