In the United Kingdom, black men are at double the risk of being diagnosed with, and dying from, prostate cancer compared with white men, a new study found. Based on the data, one in every four black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in his life.

“This summer, Prostate Cancer UK is taking to the road to spread awareness of black men’s increased risk of prostate cancer,” Dr. Ali Cooper, senior research analyst at Prostate Cancer UK, told Medical Daily in an email. “Our ‘One in Four Tour’ will take a double decker bus, fully decked out with prostate cancer awareness messaging, to English cities with some of the highest black populations.”

While prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the UK, health officials predict by 2030 it will become the most commonly diagnosed cancer overall. The prostate is a gland found only in men. It sits beneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine and semen through the penis. Usually the size and shape of a walnut, the prostate gland makes semen, the fluid that carries sperm. Some men with prostate cancer will have no symptoms, according to the website of Prostate Cancer UK, while others may experience:

  • a need to pee more often, especially at night
  • difficulty starting to urinate
  • straining, or taking a long time to finish
  • a weak flow
  • a feeling that the bladder hasn’t emptied properly
  • a need to rush to the toilet, and the occasional leak
  • dribbling urine

Risk factors include increasing age, a family history, high body weight, and ethnicity. Specifically, black men are more likely, while Asian men are less likely, to be diagnosed with the disease compared to white men, past research indicates.

To understand whether ethnic risk differences continue, researchers from Public Health England and Prostate Cancer UK examined cancer data in England, between the years 2008 and 2010, by major ethnic group. As defined by the scientists, "white" consists of "white British," "white Irish," and "other white"; "black" consists of "black African," "black Caribbean," and "other black"; and "Asian" consists of "Indian," "Pakistani," "Bangladeshi," and "other Asian."

Based on these definitions, researchers estimate the lifetime risk of a prostate cancer diagnosis in England to be about one in eight for white men (13.3 percent), one in four for black men (29.3 percent), and one in 13 for Asian men (7.9 percent). Lifetime risk of dying from prostate cancer is estimated to be nearly one in 24 for white men (4.2 percent), one in 12 for black men (8.7 percent), and one in 44 for Asian men (2.3 percent).

“White, Black, and Asian men with a prostate cancer diagnosis are all as likely to die from the disease, independent of their ethnicity,” wrote the authors at the conclusion of their study.

Asked if the new data might be relevant to black, white, and Asian men throughout the world, Cooper said she would stick to using these results in the British Isles exclusively. “It is difficult to say if this data can be applied to other countries, especially the United States where the healthcare system is so different to the U.K.,” she said.

Source: Lloyd T, Hounsome L, Mehay A, et al. Lifetime risk of being diagnosed with, or dying from, prostate cancer by major ethnic group in England 2008–2010. BMJ. 2015.