What African American Men Need to Know About Prostate Cancer

African Americans have a 60 percent higher incidence of prostate cancer compared to other ethnic groups, and a 150 percent higher risk of dying from it — in part because African Americans tend to have a more aggressive form. They are also more likely to develop prostate cancer at an earlier age and to have a more advanced stage when diagnosed.

prostate cancer
Tom Farrington, prostate cancer survivor and founder of the Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN).

For the last dozen years, Tom Farrington has been sounding the alarm about the disproportionately high risk of prostate cancer facing black men, and his message remains the same: Knowledge is your best weapon in this fight.

PSA (prostate specific antigen) testing

“You must be on guard — learn prostate health and have PSA (prostate specific antigen) testing and a digital rectal exam beginning at age 40,” says Farrington, a survivor of the disease who founded the Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN) in 2003. “Our mission is to advise every black man that he is at high risk for prostate cancer.”

For men aged 55 to 69 years, the decision to undergo periodic prostate-specific antigen (PSA)–based screening for prostate cancer should be an individual one, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Before deciding whether to be screened, men should have an opportunity to discuss the potential benefits and harms of screening with their clinician and to incorporate their values and preferences in the decision.

The American Cancer Society has also recommended that men of West African ancestry begin PSA screening in their 40s.

This is critical, because prostate cancer is highly treatable when it is detected early.

Learn your family history

It’s important to know if you have a history of prostate cancer in your immediately family, because this increases your risk significantly.

Lifestyle factors

Attention to lifestyle factors can help prevent prostate cancer, research shows. Recommendations include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise
  • Limiting intake of red meat and eating more fish
  • Incorporating tomatoes cooked with olive oil into your menus
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation

Watch this interview with Farrington from 2015:

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