Prostate cancer biomarkers in African-American men

African-American men have the highest risk of developing prostate cancer, compared all other races. A new study suggests that there are specific genes that may indicate aggressive prostate cancer in African-American men. The researchers believe that their results may partially explain the reason for ethnic disparities in prostate cancer. In the past, ethnic disparities in prostate cancer have been associated with socioeconomic and biologic factors. The study was recently published online in the journal Urologic Oncology.


The study was conducted at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was led by Kosj Yamoah, MD. The researchers analyzed the mRNA expression of twenty biomarkers that were associated with prostate cancer initiation and progression by ethnicity. The researchers used information from the Cancer of the Prostate Risk Assessment to match 154 African-American men to 243 European American men based on the postsurgical scores of their prostate cancer tumors.  

The results showed that African-American men had six biomarkers with significant differential expression. The six biomarkers include ERG, AMACR, SPINK1, NKX3-1, GOLM1, and androgen receptor. According to Dr. Yamoah, “Much of what we understand in terms of the genetics of prostate cancer to date has been based on clinical trials in Caucasian men. However, the data here suggest that a subset of African American men may have a type of prostate cancer that arises from molecular pathways that are distinctly different from those of European American men.”

The researchers concluded that African American patients with this biomarker may have a better chance for survival if they are treated with a different approach as opposed to traditional methods of care.

African-American men and prostate cancer

·         African American men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer compared with Caucasian men and are nearly 2.4 times as likely to die from the disease.

·         About 19 percent, or nearly one in five, African-American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and five percent of those will die from this disease.

·         Prostate cancer is the fourth most common reason overall for death in African-American men.

·         The risk of an African-American man developing prostate cancer increases significantly if there is a family history of prostate cancer.

·         African-American men with an immediate family member who had prostate cancer have a one in three chance of developing the disease. Their risk increases to 83 percent with two immediate family members having the disease, and then increases to 97 percent if they have three immediate family members who developed prostate cancer.

·         The American Cancer Society recommends that African-American men discuss testing for prostate cancer with their doctor at age 45, or at age 40 if they have close relatives who have had prostate cancer before age 65.