Racial disparities in prostate cancer could be addressed with newly introduced legislation

October 4, 2023

Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer in American men. However, while cancer affects everyone, it does not affect everyone equally. Black men have a much higher incidence of prostate cancer compared to other men. In fact, one in six Black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, which is a 70% higher incidence rate than in White men.  

Last year, the American Cancer Society conducted a literature review to explore the racial disparities in Black men with prostate cancer. The most alarming disparity the research found is in mortality rates—Black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as White men (Lillard Jr et al., 2022).  

Understanding the origin of prostate cancer disparities 

The root cause of this disparity is ultimately structural racism that has been embedded in our medical system for centuries.A graphic that breaks down structural racism and it's effects of prostate cancer for black men  

The graphic shown here explains some of the reasons why structural racism persists. For example, certain geographic areas—often those with higher Black populations—have less access to high-quality health care. Rural areas have fewer transportation options to travel to and from care appointments. Economic disparities make accessing affordable care extremely difficult. In limited-income populations, White men still are more likely to get screened for prostate cancer than Black men. 

Black men are also less likely to participate in clinical trials due to a lack of information on active clinical trials, how to enroll in them, and lack of access to them. Black people have a higher mistrust in the medical system due to a long history of bias, discrimination and mistreatment, from the Tuskegee Study to forced sterilizations and more.  

These factors combined make Black men less likely to get screened and less likely to access equitable care. 

Addressing disparities through research, patient support, and advocacy 

We know these disparities exist, and something must be done about them. The American Cancer Society and ACS CAN are working to improve cancer outcomes for all and reverse these disparities through the Improving Mortality from Prostate Cancer Together (IMPACT) Initiative, which reaffirms our joint commitment to eliminating barriers and addressing needs to ensure everyone has the same opportunity to be healthy and cancer-free. Aligned with the goals of the White House Cancer Moonshot, the IMPACT Initiative aims to reduce death rates from prostate cancer in all demographics and disparities for Black men by 2035 through all main pillars of work at the American Cancer Society: Discovery, Patient Support, Advocacy, and Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DEI). This includes leading innovative research into accelerating cures and identifying why Black men are at higher risk, providing educational tools and resources to empower patients and guide them to appropriate care, and building partnerships with trusted Black organizations to engage directly with communities. 

Evidence-based policies, like Medicaid expansion, can also eliminate these disparities and advance health equity. At ACS CAN, we know that legislative change is a catalyst in the fight against cancer. That’s why we support policies that increase equitable access to care and reduce barriers to screening such as patient cost. 

We’re advocating for the Prostate-Specific Antigen Screening for High-risk Insured Men Act or the PSA Screening for HIM Act, legislation that would require private health insurance plans to cover prostate cancer screenings for those at high risk of the disease, with no out-of-pocket costs for patients. PSA screenings can often detect prostate cancer before signs and symptoms are present, at earlier stages when the disease is easier to treat. Early detection saves lives, and can help decrease death rates for everyone.  

You can make a difference by sending a message to your members of Congress urging them to support the PSA Screening for HIM Act. This critical piece of health equity legislation can save more lives from cancer. Use our easy form to send your message today!  

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Lillard Jr, J. W., Moses, K. A., Mahal, B. A., & George, D. J. (2022). Racial disparities in Black men with prostate cancer: A literature review. Cancer, 128(21), 3787–3795.