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Health Team

Study: Access, Trust Issues Put Black Men at High Risk for Prostate Cancer

Posted March 12, 2007 3:34 p.m. EDT
Updated March 12, 2007 6:12 p.m. EDT

— A new study suggests access to health care and issues surrounding that access among the top factors as to why black men are at higher risk for prostate cancer.

Robert Harrison does not take his health for granted. At 63, he wants to be physically fit. He said he gets regular physical exams, but it took a prostate cancer diagnosis five years ago to make him health-conscious.

"It was advanced. It had metastacized to my left femur," he said.

Harrison had part of the prostate removed, and he is still fighting the cancer. Harrison was part of a UNC study of newly diagnosed black men. Questionnaires found it was not education or awareness that kept many of the men from regular screening and early detection.

"It was access to health care and issues surrounding access to health care," said Dr. Paul Godley, of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Harrison could afford health care and he was always close to health care, but it was a barrier of trust that kept him away.

"I distrust a lot of things and so it was easy not to have a great trust, of putting my physical being into the trust of people I didn't know," he said.

The study also showed black prostate cancer patients were the first to bring up prostate issues with their doctor.

Harrison took the approach that no news was good news when it came to his health. He said he now believes regular exams and workouts are the best bet for a long life.

"I don't think that now. I think knowing is better," he said.

Health experts said most men should begin regular prostate cancer screening by age 50, but African-American men should begin by age 40.