Black men living in England have a higher than average lifetime risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer (PCa) and dying from the disease, a new study finds. The reasons for the elevated risks are still unclear.

Investigators led by Alison Cooper from Prostate Cancer UK combined PCa incidence and mortality data from 2008-2010 from several databases, such as Public Health England and the national census. They examined the data across 3 broad racial categories: Men identifying as black, white, or Asian. Black race included men from Africa, the Caribbean, and other black ancestry. Asian race reflected Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and other Asian genealogy. White race represented men from Britain, Ireland, and other Caucasian family histories. Men identifying as mixed race were a disparate group that precluded analysis.

According to results published in BMC Medicine, the absolute lifetime risk of a PCa diagnosis was 1 in 4 for black men in England, compared with 1 in 8 for white men. The risk of dying from PCa was also twice as high for black versus white men: 1 in 12 compared with 1 in 24.

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The odds were most favorable for Asian men. Their lifetime risk of being diagnosed with PCa was 1 in 13 and their chances of dying from the cancer were 1 in 44, roughly half the risk of white men. The researchers found that all PCa patients had a one-third risk of dying of the disease, however, irrespective of ethnicity.

Greater awareness of the higher statistics may prompt black men to see their health care provider and discuss whether to have PSA testing, the researchers suggested. Ethnicity, of course, is not the only PCa risk factor. Increasing age, a strong family history, and weight, also play roles, for example.

The study is not without limitations. The investigators made several assumptions and adjustments to fill in missing data. Future studies need to probe the mechanisms behind the disparities, whether genetic, environmental, and/or socioeconomic.


  1. Lloyd, T; Hounsome, L; Mehay, A; et al. BMC Medicine (2015) 13:171; doi: 10.1186/s12916-015-0405-5.