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By Newsdesk

Thursday, October 17, 2013.

A shocking new figure released in Black History Month by the health charity Prostate Cancer UK, reveals that one in every four Black men in the UK will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in his lifetime. That’s double the overall 1-in-8 cradle-to-grave risk faced by all men in the UK.  


Cordwell Thomas, who heads Prostate Cancer UK’s partnership with Britain’s African and African Caribbean communities, says it is like Russian Roulette but with only four players chancing the bullet.


“This statistic is a wake-up call to Black men about the unique danger they face - and we’re warning them to act on it,” he says. “Fathers, brothers, partners, sons - with every fourth Black man or boy in the UK destined to get this potentially fatal disease at some time, it’s vital that everything possible is done to identify and catch aggressive cancers early,” he said.


Calculation of the specific lifetime risk to Black men was undertaken by Prostate Cancer UK as part of its continuing drive to support the men of Britain’s two million strong African and African Caribbean population in recognising both the threat to their prostate health and their responsibility to be proactive in seeking out advice and support.  


Mr Thomas points out that many health professionals are not even aware that Black ancestry is a prostate cancer risk factor. What’s more, Black men often don’t claim their rights to health care.


“They’re not first in line to see the GP or to call our helpline to discuss concerns like erectile dysfunction or problems peeing. With so many lives at risk, we all have to work together to ensure that Black men wise up to the issue and those affected seek and receive appropriate healthcare,” he said.


With the backing of its major funding partner, Movember, Prostate Cancer UK provides support to thousands of men facing prostate cancer and it has consistently emphasised the higher risk faced by Black men. The urgent need to help Britain’s Black communities act upon their raised risk means Prostate Cancer UK is bringing together the community leaders and clinicians who can encourage Black men to face up to their heightened prostate cancer risk, engage with it, and take the necessary action.


Mr Thomas said: “It’s your life and the message is know your risk and know your responsibility. It’s about taking charge of your own health. As a Black man, you’re already in a high risk group, so the worst thing to do is to ignore the risk. Confront it, speak to your wife, partner or friends about it, and consult your GP over whether a test is advisable in your case. Even when you have no actual symptoms, you are entitled to a test if you are over 50 and have spoken to your GP.”


Football legend and sports broadcaster Mark Bright warns that Black British men over 50 must speak to their GP or call the Prostate Cancer UK helpline for information and advice, because it is important they know about the risk of prostate cancer and what they can do about it. 


“I’m a black man and I am over 50. My risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer is significantly higher than that of a white man of the same age.  Now we know that one in four black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some time in his life, we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to take responsibility for our health and understand our risks,” he said.


 Prostate Cancer UK volunteer Phil Kissi MBE is a survivor of the disease. He says it is terrifying to think that he could so easily have carried on without knowing anything about prostate cancer despite it being the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the UK.


“Luckily my GP was very supportive when I raised my concerns with him and I caught the cancer in time to have successful treatment but it saddens me to think that others may not have this chance,” he says. “Ultimately it is up to us men to respect and take responsibility for our health but I needed a lot of support from my friends and family.”


Mr Thomas points out that 2013 is the 65th anniversary of the Windrush Landing. He says it is ironic that youngsters who arrived on that ship a whole lifetime ago and have won countless battles over the decades still face a major public health inequality based on nothing but ethnicity. He argues that is why Prostate Cancer UK puts in the research, services and support that will help more Black men like Phil to survive this disease.


If you have concerns about prostate cancer or the raised risk to men of black ancestry please call Prostate Cancer UK's confidential Helpline on 0800 074 8383 or visit www.prostatecanceruk.org. The helpline is free to landlines, staffed by specialist nurses, and open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday with late opening until 8pm on Wednesdays.


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