How Does Ethnicity Affect Risk Of Developing Prostate Cancer?

Question: How does ethnicity affect risk of developing prostate cancer?

Answer: We've seen very interesting and sometimes dramatic differences in the risk of prostate cancer among men from different ethnic backgrounds. For example, in the United States, if you are an African American man, your risk of having prostate cancer is about 80 percent higher than it is for a white man in the United States. In contrast, if you are Hispanic, your risk is about 25 percent lower than it is for a white man in the United States.

What has been really interesting and gives us a lot of important clues about prostate cancer, is that when we look at countries where the risk of prostate cancer is very low, for example, men in Japan, China, India all have risks of prostate cancer that are 1/10 to 1/20 as high as the risk for men in the United States. But when those men move to the United States, the risks for their sons and for their grandsons increase quite a bit, not quite as high as the level of white men in the United States, but they get about half the level of risk of white men in the United States.

So when men move from a country with very low risk to a country with higher risk, their offspring develop risk that moves in that higher risk direction.

A lot of things change when you move from a country with a very different culture. And one of the things that we think is most important is diet. We know that the diet of men in eastern countries like Japan and China is very different than the typical American diet. And we think that's one of the biggest things that you change if you move from one of those countries to the U.S. and that's something that changes in your children and their children.

Other things change as well and of course men from different countries or different ethnic backgrounds have some genetic differences. But we think right now that most of the differences between men of different ethnic backgrounds relate to lifestyle characteristics.

Bruce Trock, Ph.D., Ass. Professor, Urology and Oncology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
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