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Black men at higher risk of prostate cancer

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By Abraham Adekunle

According to professor, genetic variations in Africans increase the risk.

One of the gender-specific organs in the human body is the prostate. It is a gland about the size of a walnut situated just below the bladder and in front of the rectum in men. It surrounds the urethra, the tube which is responsible for carrying urine out of the bladder. The prostate plays a role in producing and storing fluid that aids in forming semen. However, there is a type of cancer associated with the organ. Prostate cancer ranks as the second most common cancer and the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men. Remarkably, this disease is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men in more than half of the countries worldwide.

An assistant professor in clinical and administrative sciences at the Department of Pharmacy in the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center discusses the issues surrounding prostate cancer with the media. Dr. Motolani Ogunsanya is also a faculty member of the TSET Health Promotion Research Centre, Stephenson Cancer Centre in Oklahoma. She said that there are factors that predisposes black people to greater risk of prostate as well as ways to prevent them. In simpler terms, black people have a higher risk of being diagnosed with this type of cancer than any other race.

Exact cause of the cancer remains a mystery to researchers.

While there is no definite peer-reviewed established cause of the disease, researchers have identified several factors. One of them is age. The older one gets, the higher the risk of having it. Others include: family history of the disease, race, diet, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle. More importantly, specific genetic mutations, such as breast cancer genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2), and conditions like Lynch syndrome also pose a risk. They are genes associated with increased breast and ovarian cancer risks. Mutations in these genes can lead to a higher likelihood of developing these cancers.

Dr. Ogunsanya also affirmed that black men worldwide have the highest incident rates. This suggests that African ancestry plays a role in the risk modulation. A few lifestyles, such as smoking, excess body weight, specific diet and environmental factors, have been recorded to have caused the disease. She also added that certain genetic variations in the 8q24 gene locus increase the risk of prostate cancer, especially in Africans. Scientists are yet to fully determine how these variations contribute to it, but these genes are believed to impact genes involved in cell growth, DNA repair, and inflammation. Studying these genetic factors can help identify individuals at higher risk and improve prevention strategies.

Men who ejaculate more often have a lower risk of having the kind of cancer.

The term, ‘8q24’ refers to a specific location on one of our chromosomes called Chromosome 8. This region has been found to be associated with an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer such as prostate, colorectal, breast, and ovarian cancer. The professor debunks claims, especially on social media, that having sexual intercourse more than three times a week can lead to it. “Actually, it is the opposite, as research has shown that men who ejaculate more often have a lower risk of getting prostate cancer,” she said. According to a study in Harvard Health Publishing, frequent ejaculation was correlated with decreased risk of prostate cancer in men between the ages of 46 and 81.

Globally, over 40,000 men are diagnosed with the illness yearly and over 10,000 of these men die every year. A major percentage of these men are black. The reasons for this are complex, but there are social, biological, and environmental factors, such as genetics, pollutants, family history, smoking, limited physical activity, and obesity, that contribute to the increased risk and poorer outcomes. Because of this, she emphasized that early detection is essential, seeing that the odds are against men of black ancestry.

There are strategies to help lower its risk among men.

Early detection methods such as screening via prostate-specific antigen blood tests and digital rectal exams are commonly used to identify potential signs of prostate cancer in its early stages. These tests allow healthcare professionals to assess prostate health and determine if further diagnostic procedures are necessary. Also, regular exercise, following a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, limiting the consumption of dairy products and red meat, and maintaining a healthy weight are some of the strategies that can help lower the risk of having the cancer.

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