Why are black men more at risk?

Prostate Cancer Researcher Folakemi Odedina hopes to answer that question


African-American men are twice as likely to succumb to prostate cancer as their white counterparts. Folakemi Odedina, Ph.D., an associate director of health disparities for the UF

Shands Cancer Center, has dedicated her career to eliminating cancer disparities in the minority community.

It is not known why cancer disproportionately affects minority communities, but genetic and environmental factors have been suggested as possible reasons. In her research, Odedina focuses not only on understanding this disparity, but also combating it. In her research, she separates individuals within the black community by ethnicity to help create personalized treatment and research for the patient. Once researchers understand the biological and behavioral aspects of cancer among minority groups, they will be able to pair patients with the most effective interventions.

“We need to study how nativity affects cancer morbidity and mortality to develop cost-effective intervention programs for cancer disparities,” Odedina said. Odedina has led dozens of projects focused on prostate cancer in the minority community. Here, she answers a few questions about her work.
— Mina Radman

What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?

If you are black, you are at high risk. If your family has a history of prostate cancer, you are more likely to get prostate cancer. Age is also another risk factor. Prostate cancer is very aggressive in black men and we still don’t know why it disproportionately affects them. Genetic and environmental factors have been suggested as reasons people of African descent are highly susceptible to prostate cancer.

How does this hit home in Alachua County?

In Alachua County, cancer is the leading cause of death. When you look at the 2007 statistics, the death rate for black men with prostate cancer is four times higher than white men in Alachua County. This is an alarming statistic. There is no reason why cancer should be the leading cause of death in our community, and there’s no reason why we should have significant disparities for prostate cancer or any other type of cancer. We have to take care of our own community.

What can African-American men do to prevent cancer and catch it earlier?

Prevention, risk reduction and early detection behaviors are very important, especially for minority and underserved populations who carry the most burden for cancer. It is important we watch our diet, exercise regularly and talk to our physicians about how to maintain our health. We have found that black men aren’t well-informed about prostate cancer. Talking to their physicians about prostate cancer may save their lives.

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