Published: June 10, 2024

Why is prostate cancer so common in Black men?

By: Gregory McIntosh, D.O.

According to the latest data from the American Cancer Society, the incidence of prostate cancer is about 73% higher in Black men than in White men, with Black men in the U.S. and Caribbean having the highest documented prostate cancer incidence rates in the world.

Why? That’s the question researchers are trying to answer.


One hypothesis for the health disparity in prostate cancer is genetics. Do Black men have a higher genetic susceptibility to prostate cancer? Do Black men have a greater tendency to develop a more aggressive form of prostate cancer?

The Prostate Cancer Foundation, which has been studying the genetic science of prostate cancer for decades, has discovered that gene mutations passed down from mothers and fathers are responsible for some of the most persistent variations of prostate cancer. Whether or not this entirely accounts for the racial disparities in prostate cancer is yet unknown.

However, knowing the genetic makeup of your cancer can help guide your treatment. For men with advanced prostate cancer, there are now medications specifically designed to repair mutations in specific genes known to cause prostate cancer.

PSA Tests

Another hypothesis is related to prostate cancer screening tests. According to a literature review published in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society, nearly one-half of Black men report being uneducated about the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test or digital rectal examinations for detecting prostate cancer.

Just this year, the Prostate Cancer Foundation convened a panel of renowned experts who issued new screening recommendations for Black men.

Black men should consider PSA screening between ages 40 and 45, and depending on their results and health status, annual screenings should be strongly considered.

The PSA test is a simple blood test looking for a protein in the bloodstream that can be excreted by cancer cells. Men with prostate cancer usually have high PSA levels.

Clinical Trials

Researchers also believe there may be a link between clinical trial participation and patients with advanced prostate cancer.

Between 1987 and 2016, Black men in the United States were largely underrepresented in phase 3 clinical trials. Of the 72 clinical trials analyzed, 83.4% of the men who participated were White versus 6.7% who were Black.

Prevention Tips and Symptoms

While researchers continue to dig into the causes of health disparities in Black men with prostate cancer, there are essential tips that are vital for all men to know, regardless of race.

  • Think before you eat. A healthy weight is essential for cancer prevention and overall wellness, but the kinds of foods we eat matter, too. Men should get 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruit daily–they are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, which improve immunity.
  • Live strong. Research has shown that men who exercise regularly have a slightly lower risk of developing prostate cancer, and chances improve with vigorous exercise. Regular exercise also strengthens bones, which is vital for men taking hormone treatment for prostate cancer, which can contribute to osteoporosis.
  • Know your family history. Men who have a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease, regardless of race. They should get tested at age 40.

Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer won’t experience any symptoms, but some advanced cancers may cause:

  • Trouble with urination or bowel movements
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Back or bone pain
  • Weight loss

Visit our website to learn more about prostate cancer, prevention, and PSA screening options and to learn more about clinical trials taking place at MIU.

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