TRUE BLUE

Race a factor in who survives prostate cancer


Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 at 3:06 p.m.

Black men with prostate cancer are three times as likely to die from the disease as white men in Alachua County, which is slightly higher than the national average. In Marion County, black men with prostate cancer are almost twice as likely to die from the disease as their white counterparts.

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Rob Mack/Staff graphic

“We have a really big problem on our hands,” said Folakemi Odedina, a professor of pharmaceutical outcomes and policy at the University of Florida and an expert in prostate cancer disparities.

“One of the struggles that we have been dealing with is those who do not have insurance, or Medicaid. It is all about having the right access at the right time,” Odedina said.

Black men are generally diagnosed later than whites, and because of that have a more aggressive disease and poorer outcomes.

So the first step in reducing this disparity is making sure that black men get to the doctor on time, Odedina said, adding that they should start screening for PSA between the ages of 40 and 45 to get their baseline reading.

“When you have a risk that is almost four times as the other race it becomes very important that they are targeted and work closely with physicians and are well-informed.”

To target the African-American population in Gainesville, UF Shands Cancer Center holds an annual health fair called the “Men’s Health & ManPower Expo.” This year’s will be held from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Springhill Baptist Church.

There will be several information booths — not just on prostate cancer — but general health issues.

“It’s a combination of wanting to provide information and empowering them to ask questions,” said Shannon Pressey, one of the organizers. “It’s a place where they can come to get free food, health information, and possibly a jumper cable.”

Pressey said that many people don’t know what prostate cancer is, so providing basic information is part of their mission.

Pressey said that traditionally, men come with their wives, which is good since wives are often more proactive about their husband’s health, from going to the doctor with them to being caregivers.

“You need someone to sit and write down the questions and answers, someone who can tell you the rest of the story. Because once people hear the word ‘cancer’ they start thinking about who they can give their boat to,” said Samuel Gaddy, prostate cancer advocate and one of the chairs of the health expo.

Gaddy said that, in part, the importance of the expo is to pass down information and share it in an open and relaxed forum since “people don’t have family reunions like they used to have.”

On the research side, Odedina is looking into the differences in prostate cancer between black men. She was recently awarded a U.S. Department of Defense grant worth more than $1 million to study the differences between prostate cancer incidence and survival among Caribbean blacks, black Africans and African-Americans.

“Black is not a homogeneous group,” Odedina said. “The group that has the lowest level of prostate cancer are blacks from Africa. What are they doing that is different? There are a lot of activities and work going on that will help us narrow the gap among blacks.”

Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119, or kristine.crane@gvillesun.com.

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