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Thousands of black men unaware of prostate cancer signs

AT RISK: Black men

BLACK MEN are twice as likely to be struck by prostate cancer than white men but thousands are still oblivious to the symptoms, experts have warned.

The latest figures show one in four contract the disease in the UK every year, while the rate is just one in eight among white men.

And research by the Proton Therapy Center, a cancer treatment clinic based in Prague, found more than a third (35%) of those aged 50 and over—the age group most at risk—have no idea how to identify common prostate cancer warning signs.

Dr Jiri Kubes, Medical Director at Proton Therapy Center, said there is no scientific explanation why there is such a high risk, but that should be no bar to raising awareness of the symptoms.

He said: “There is no clear evidence as to why black men carry such a high risk of prostate cancer, but there is strong evidence that awareness is dangerously low.

“You have to be vigilant with prostate cancer as it does not usually immediately reveal itself. In most men, it is there without them even knowing and they often only become alerted when symptoms worsen.

“There is a gap in awareness among men of all population backgrounds.

"Men with even the slightest of concerns should not hesitate to see their doctor, and that is an especially-important message for black men, who are more at risk of the disease starting and progressing.

“The rate of one-in-four, recorded by YouGov, is based on men classed as ‘black African’, ‘black Caribbean’ and ‘black other’. A lack of data means ‘black mixed’ are not included for statistical purposes, but they are also likely to be at a higher risk of prostate cancer than non-black men.

“And it is concerning that our statistics show well over a third of the most at-risk age group have no idea what warning signs they should be looking for.”

A leading European destination for cancer treatment, Proton Therapy Center uncovered the statistics via a poll of 1,000 men aged over 50.

Prostate cancer is Britain’s second most common form of the disease, behind breast cancer, but there is currently no national screening programme.

ONS figures show there were 40,489 cases registered in 2016, accounting for one in four (26.1%) male malignant cancer registrations.

In the same year, there were more than 11,000 prostate cancer deaths in the UK.

Dr Kubes added: “Male cancers have traditionally received less attention than those more common in women, although this is quickly changing.

“While there is an increasing emphasis on tackling male strands of the disease, all men—and black men especially—need to be aware of the warning signs.

“We don’t know exactly why this population group is most at risk, but the gap in scientific knowledge should be no bar to them being clued-up on the symptoms.

“These include an increased need to urinate or thoughts of urinating more frequently, pain during sex, chronic fatigue, sudden weight loss, and feelings of nausea.

“Sufferers may also have difficulty urinating standing up or maintaining a steady stream, and pain in the crotch, thighs or lower back.

“Among all men, the chances of getting the disease increases with age, and the NHS advises all men aged 45 or over to get checked out.

“And those whose father or brother has had it, or people who are overweight or obese, are believed more susceptible.”

The prostate gland sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, and its main job is to produce a thick white fluid that helps to create semen.

While its cancer often starts slowly and may never cause a problem, it can spread quickly via the bloodstream.

Figures from Cancer Research UK show a quarter of all those diagnosed with the disease each year will die as a result.

Tests for prostate cancer include a digital rectal examination and a PSA test which measures the levels of prostate specific antigen in the blood.

There is currently no screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK because it has not been proved that the benefits would outweigh the risks, according to the NHS.

Routinely screening all men to check their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels is a controversial subject in the international medical community for several reasons.

Firstly, PSA tests are unreliable and can suggest prostate cancer when no cancer exists - known as a false-positive result. This means that many men often have invasive and sometimes painful biopsies for no reason.

Also, up to 15 per cent of men with prostate cancer have normal PSA levels - a false-negative result - so many cases may be missed.

The NHS says more research is needed to determine whether a screening programme would provide men with more benefit than harm.

Heather Blake, Director of Support and Influencing at Prostate Cancer UK said: “Early diagnosis of prostate cancer is vital to saving men’s lives. To ensure no man slips through the net we urgently need a test which can be used as part of a routine national screening programme, particularly as men will often have no symptoms until the latter stages of the disease.

“Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, the current PSA blood test has the potential to cause more harm than benefit if used on its own for a screening programme, which is why investing in research to find a more suitable testing method is the top priority of our research strategy.

“In the meantime, we recommend that men over 50 – and men over 45 if they are Black or have a family history of the disease – discuss the pros and cons of the PSA test with their GP so that they can decide if it's right for them.

“Until there is a better test, a man’s awareness of his risk is his best defence against prostate cancer.”

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