Due to distrust of medical studies, black men often underrepresented in prostate cancer research

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Due to distrust of medical studies, black men often underrepresented in prostate cancer research

Dr. David Samadi provides his expert opinion on a recent study finding black men more skeptical and suspicious of medical research, including research on prostate cancer, even though black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as white men.

The most common and deadly cancer for men in the U.S. (other than non-melanoma skin cancer) is prostate cancer.  However, black men are twice as likely as white men to die from the disease.  Not only is this concerning but a recent study found that when it comes to research for prostate cancer treatment, representation of black men included in such medical studies is lacking.

“I find the results of this study very troubling as to why black men are often underrepresented in prostate cancer research,” stated Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon. “However, understanding the results of this study is valuable.  Hopefully, it can be used to help recruit participation of more black men in prostate cancer research helping discover treatments increasing their chances of survival.”

The study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine specifically unlocked the attitudes of black men in regards to prostate cancer research. Mistrust of the healthcare system in the U.S. and of medical research by black men was a primary theme that was uncovered from the study.  This finding reflects earlier research which found that African Americans distrust clinical research more than white Americans.

Even though this new study was small (only 56 participants), it provided beneficial information on how black men think about being a participant in prostate cancer research and genomic testing. The study was conducted between April, 2015 and April, 2017, with seven focus groups recruited from California, Minnesota, and Alabama.  The organization, 100 Black Men of America, which provides educational and economic opportunities for African-American, helped recruit black men or the spouses of black men for the study.

“One factor that made black men less likely to voluntarily participate in research studies is their unfamiliarity with genomic testing,” explained Dr. Samadi. “Genomic testing refers to the examination of unique abnormalities or mutations that occur in cancer.  It could be mutations driving the cancer to grow. By researching genomic testing, scientists can discover the genomic makeup of abnormalities in cancer tissue.  The exciting thing about genomic testing is it may be possible to identify the genetic profile of a tumor and thus, design treatment options specifically for that person’s cancer.”

However the most significant and surprising finding from this study was the main reason as to why black men, who are at a greater risk and disadvantage of dying from prostate cancer than white men, are reluctant to participate in prostate cancer.

“It boils down to a general distrust in the American healthcare system as to why black men often are not always willing participants in prostate cancer research,” explained Dr. Samadi. “Historically, African Americans are aware of past clinical abuses especially of what happened in the infamous Tuskegee study.  Occurring more than 40 years ago, the Tuskegee study was a government medical experiment conducted in the Tuskegee area of Alabama.  It allowed hundreds of African-American men with syphilis to go untreated so that scientists could study the effects of the disease.”

Dr. Samadi went on to say, “There are several things necessary to do to gain the trust of black men. Complete transparency of clinical research, why it’s being done and how it will be used is a start. Including more African-American researchers who are conducting prostate cancer research is another important step. If we want to reduce health disparities among ethnic groups, we need their cooperation and trust to participate in clinical research. When there is a diverse representation of races, class and genders in scientific studies, the better care we as doctors can provide. All men benefit from prostate cancer research but I especially want to see black men gain the most by removing barriers and gaining their confidence.”

Patients newly diagnosed with prostate cancer can contact world renowned prostate cancer surgeon and urologic oncologist, Dr. David Samadi, for consultation and to learn more about prostate cancer risk, call 212-365-5000.