The Florida-California Cancer Research, Education & Engagement (CaRE2) Health Equity Center is a partnership between University of Florida, Florida A&M University and University of Southern California, funded by the National Cancer Institute (NIH/NCI 1U54CA233444). CaRE2 Health Equity Center’s mission is to address cancer disparities in Black and Latino communities through high impact and innovative research; building research capacity and innovation; training and education of underrepresented minority students and early stage investigators; culturally sensitive community engagement; and research training of the next generation of scientists who can conduct cancer disparities research going from the molecule to the community to the clinic.
One of the areas of Cancer Health Disparities that CaRE2 Health Equity Center focuses on is Prostate Cancer in Black people. According to the American Cancer Society Black people are 76% more likely to be diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, and twice as likely to die from it compared to White people. Dr. Folakemi Odedina, one of the program directors at CaRE2 @ UF has looked at the connection between genetics and environment by studying groups across the Transatlantic Slave Trade for over 20 years. Dr. Renee Reams, program director for CaRE2 @ FAMU and Research Scientist at the CaRE2 Health Equity Center, holds several patents for discovering specific genes that are associated with more aggressive prostate cancer Black Men. Dr. Reams work on the previously mentioned research study, is in partnership with Dr. Hassy Cohen at University of Southern California, and Dr. Li-Ming Su at University of Florida.
While, overall the numbers of cases are decreasing, and the gap between Black and white prostate cancer patients is slowly getting smaller, the disparity is still significant. If we look at a graph of state of prostate cancer health outcomes for Black patients is the same as what it was for white patients in the early 1990s. Our center seeks to bring together scientists, health care clinicians, patients, survivors, and community members as stakeholders to change that.
This September we are encouraging Black Men to take the following actions to empower them to claim resources for good health:
- Know your family health history. We know this can be hard for people to talk about. Health and prostates can be a very vulnerable thing to ask about and talk about—especially for Black Men. But can save your life, your son’s life, or your brother’s life. People who have a family history of prostate cancer, have a higher risk of getting it. Knowing your history can help you talk with your doctor about whether or not it is time for you to start getting screened.
- Get screened. The American Urological Association recommends that men between the ages of 55 – 69 undergo prostate screening, including both a PSA blood test and prostate examination. However if you are someone who is considered to have a higher risk of getting prostate cancer (for example: you have a family history of prostate cancer) the American Cancer Society recommends talking to your doctor about getting screed as early as age 40.
- Engage in as many healthy behaviors as you can. Eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly is associated with lower risks of many health conditions including prostate cancer. Make sure you are aware of your body, and see a health care provider if you notice any discomfort or changes.
- Participate in research studies. Even though more black men get prostate cancer, and it is more aggressive in Black men, Black men because they are less likely to be included in research studies about prostate cancer. As a result, the latest prevention and treatments are getting developed without consideration of whether or not they are effective for Black men. This is especially concerning as treatment options become more and more specific to patients’ genetic makeup to be effective. There are many reasons for this and the CaRE2 Health Equity Center is working to change that. We are supporting the career development of Black scientists, and the inclusion of members of the community to make sure the research profession is developing studies that are sensitive to the needs of participants from populations that have been hurt by or excluded from research participation in the past. We also want people to know that there are many types or research studies to meet the comfort level and needs of many different types of people. Yes, some studies are experimental drug trials, but lot of research studies only involve participating in surveys, providing saliva samples, or asking patients to donate leftover blood or tissue from regular healthcare tests. All of these types of participation are extremely important for advancing knowledge about prostate cancer prevention and treatment.
In addition to our regular activities, the CaRE2 Health Equity Center is holding two virtual events focusing on Prostate Cancer Disparities in Black populations: a Virtual Town Hall hosted by CaRE2 @ USC on September 26 (register for free: https://usc.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2bTnuazrR5CJ8EiJmD9qtA) , and a Prostate Cancer Awareness Virtual Celebration on September 29 with survivors, clinicians and scientists (register for free: https://care2.cancer.ufl.edu). The Prostate Health Education Network that is hosting their 16th Annual African-American Prostate Cancer Disparity Summit through the end of the month, as well (you can learn more at http://prostatehealthed.org/# ). Lastly, the American Cancer Society has a lot of information about Prostate Cancer specifically for African-Americans (https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/cancer-facts-figures-for-african-americans.html ), in addition to general information that we trust and recommend to men who want to take care of their health (https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer.html ).