For Immediate Release         November 09, 2009  


What role does culture have in the alarmingly high rate of prostate cancer among men of African descent?

Nacole S. Smith, a second-year Masters in Urban Public Health student at Charles Drew University, explored that question with African American and Bahamian men in her study: “Prostate Cancer Prevention in Men of African Ancestry: What does Culture have to do with it?”

On Monday, Nov. 9th, she presented her findings before an audience at the American Public Health Association’s 137th Annual Meeting & Exposition in Philadelphia, PA.

“I pretty much knew already that black men in general suffered more from prostate cancer,” Smith said.

The prostate cancer rates of Bahamian and African American men are significantly higher than other ethnic groups. Prostate cancer has been a health disparity for men of African ancestry for more than 30 years.

Participants in the study completed 160-question multiple item questionnaire, measuring clues about the importance of prostate cancer screening. Most participants said their doctors failed to inform them about the need to take regular tests.

Smith said the problem for African American and Bahamian men often lies in the “confusing” messages they receive about the disease.

“We hypothesize that cultural influences in men of African ancestry counteract healthy life style seeking behaviors for early detection of prostate cancer,” she said.

For many, she adds, prostate cancer is not a threat to be taken seriously and that is “self-handicapping behavior.”

In the study, she reported that African American men were 50 percent more likely to have prostate cancer than whites. And the mortality rate is six times that of whites. In the Bahamas, prostate cancer was one of the leading causes of death, despite efforts to combat the disease going back more than a decade.

Smith said the study indentified strong links between cultural values, beliefs and the risk of illness and disease.

In addition to Smith, other authors of the study include Dr. V. Diane Woods, University of California, Riverside and President & CEO, African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County; Robin Roberts, MD, FRCSC, MBA, School of Clinical Medicine and Research, The Bahamas/ Past President, Medical Association of the Bahamas, University of the West Indies, Nassau, Bahamas; and Disep Ojukwu, M.P.H., board member, African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County.

Nacole S. Smith, of Rialto, graduated in 2008 from California State University, Sacramento with a Bachelor in biological science and is currently interning at the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino. She is a Judicial Affairs Representative for Charles Drew University Student Government and is scheduled to receive her MPH in 2010.

The APHA Annual Meeting & Exposition is the oldest and largest gathering of public health professionals in the world, attracting more than 13,000 national and international physicians, administrators, nurses, educators, researchers, epidemiologists, and related health specialists. APHA's meeting program addresses current and emerging health science, policy, and practice issues in an effort to prevent disease and promote health.

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