Earlier this month, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut, announced that it will join forces with Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama, to establish a partnership for research on prostate cancer and the disproportionate mortality rates of African-American men with the disease. The collaboration will include scientific research, testing and discovery towards finding a cure for prostate cancer.
As part of the new partnership, St. Francis will donate tissue samples from prostate surgeries of African-American men performed at St. Francis' Curtis D. Robinson Men's Health Institute. Researchers at Tuskegee University will use the tissue to study why Black men are plagued with prostate cancer at such alarming rates.
"This partnership is a leading-edge, very novel approach to finding a cure for prostate cancer," said Jeffrey Steinberg, the senior vice president for health policy and disparity at St. Francis Hospital. "We're creating a research relationship with Tuskegee University and providing them with necessary materials to conduct research to further their understanding of how prostate cancer is passed on in African-American men and also to predict which cancers will be more aggressive."
Experts state that African-American men have one of the highest rates of incidence and death from prostate cancer. They are 1.6 times as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 2.4 times as likely to die from the disease as white Americans.
And while those numbers are depressing, the key to beating this disparity is being proactive:
Know your risk: African-American men are already at an increased risk for prostate cancer, but that risk increases dramatically if there is a family history of prostate cancer. African-American men with an immediate family member who had prostate cancer have a one in three chance of developing the disease. Their risk rises to 83 percent with two immediate family members having the disease, and skyrockets to 97 percent if they have three immediate family members who developed prostate cancer.
Early screening: Like most cancers and other diseases, your survival rate increases the earlier the disease is detected. Remember, prostate cancer is 100 percent treatable if detected early. Unfortunately, too many Black men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are diagnosed in a late stage.
The American Cancer Society recommends that African-American men should begin discussing prostate cancer risks and screenings with their doctors when they are 45. This discussion about screenings should take place at age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with several first-degree relatives who had prostate cancer at an early age).
Learn more about prostate cancer here.