African-American men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and are more likely to die from it.

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Researchers recommend that African-American men start getting screened for prostate cancer at age 40. Getty Images

African-American men are more likely to die of prostate cancer than any other ethnic group in the United States.

Recent research states that early testing could change that.

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer develops mainly in men over the age of 45.

About 60 percent of cases are diagnosed in men aged 65 years or older. It’s rare in men younger than 40.

The organization also reports that African-American men are almost twice as likely to develop the disease in their early 50s, and are more likely to be diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease.

“We simply don’t know exactly why prostate cancer seems to affect African-Americans in greater numbers,” Dr. Michael J. Curran, chief executive officer of Greater Boston Urology LLC, told Healthline.

“All we know from clinical experience is that when we diagnose African-American men with prostate cancer, they’re diagnosed at younger ages, with more aggressive disease, and in a more advanced stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis,” he added.

Next to skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United States.

About 10 percent of U.S. men will be diagnosed with this disease in their lifetime.

The new study by Moffitt Cancer Center researchers has concluded that a baseline prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level obtained from African-American men between the ages of 40 and 60 could strongly predict future development of prostate cancer and its most aggressive forms for years after testing.

The PSA test measures a protein made exclusively by the prostate gland. Proponents say this makes the exam a good way to determine prostate health.

The investigators used both data and blood samples from participants in the Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS). The study was composed of 86,000 men and women recruited through community health centers in 12 southern states to increase understanding of the causes of cancer and other major diseases.

They chose African-American men within the SCCS cohort who were between 40- and 64-years old, and free of cancer at the time of enrollment.

The results showed that the risk of prostate cancer rose along with rising PSA levels, regardless of age.

“Midlife PSA predicts subsequent development of aggressive prostate cancer better than either family history or race,” said Travis Gerke, ScD, a Moffitt epidemiologist and co-first author of the study, in a press release.

The study also noted that for African-American men aged 40 to 54, even PSA levels within a normal range still showed an increased risk for prostate cancer.

Since the PSA test was introduced in the late 1980s, it’s been lauded as the most effective way to detect prostate cancer in its earliest (and most curable) stage.

So, why are many now stepping back or even discouraging the use of widespread PSA screening?

For example, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now only recommends PSA testing for men 55- to 69-years old depending on their individual circumstances as discussed with a healthcare provider.

Curran says the controversy about PSA testing is due to other conditions of the prostate, such as benign growth of the prostate gland, infection, or inflammation that can also cause the PSA level to rise and trigger a false-positive result.

“But PSA is still the best, most available, and economical screening test we have for prostate cancer,” said Curran.

According to the USPSTF, false-positive results risk an unnecessary prostate biopsy, a treatment that can have severe complications, such as incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

“Admittedly, when we do prostate biopsies to make the actual diagnosis, many men are biopsied who do not have cancer,” said Curran.

However, he noted that “with advances in technology, like genetic screening and improved MRI capabilities, we have been able to reduce the number of negative biopsies that we perform, which benefits everybody.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine in Maryland reports that African-American men may have the highest rate of prostate cancer incidence in the world.

“The death rates from 2011 to 2015 are double for African-Americans as opposed to the next highest group, which would be Native Americans. Although men of Asian descent seem to have the lowest risk,” said Curran.

“Therefore, it’s very important for African-American men to not only get screened for prostate cancer, but be screened at an earlier age, and have that first PSA at age 40,” he emphasized.

Curran hopes the Moffitt study will help raise awareness in the African-American community that “This is a cancer that’s costing us many lives, but early diagnosis and treatment can save many of them.”

African-American men develop prostate cancer more often and younger than any other ethnic group.

Recent research shows that a baseline PSA level obtained from African-American men between the ages of 40 and 60 could predict the development of prostate cancer for years after testing.

Although controversial, proponents say the PSA test is still the best way to determine prostate cancer risk.