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Prostate Cancer and Race

by J.H. Hacsi

The risk of developing prostate cancer for African American men is 60% higher than for Anglo American men and research has shown that black men are more prone to this cancer than any other race, no matter where they live.

The hormonal connection between prostate cancer and the level of the male hormone testosterone has been well established and for years science erroneously assumed that black men had higher levels of this hormone than other men. When studies looked at the levels, however, they found this wasn’t true. The levels were no different. They now hold a receptor for male hormones responsible.

This androgen receptor differs in length from race to race. This receptor is larger in Asian men, intermediate in white men and shorter in black men. The shorter the receptor is, the more active it is, which means that the same amount of testosterone has a greater effect on African men than on other men.

Men who ejaculate frequently over decades, if they do it safely, run a lesser risk of getting prostate cancer. Yet African American males, who are subject to the greatest degree of hormonal stimulation and who lead very active sex lives according to most studies, suffer the highest rate of this cancer and die from it at a greater rate.

How do we explain this?

Possibly it’s because black men have to sit hard on their aggressive impulses far more frequently than white men do.

About eight weeks after conception, the male fetus gets hit with a dose of testosterone that causes a spurt of growth in the sex and aggression centers. Thus does nature prepare a male to grow up to be both sexual and aggressive.

If you are a black man growing up under white male domination, what does this do to the hormonal mandate to be aggressive that you’ve been living under all your life? As an African American you are stopped oftener by police, are sent to jail or prison more often and given longer sentences. Almost fifty years after the Civil Rights movement, you are still discriminated against in almost every area as you have been since first being brought here in chains. Everything in you screams out to Be a man! Stand up to The Man!” but if you hope to stay alive and out of jail there is no easy way to do this. So you grit your teeth and put up with what is – and suffer higher than average rates of hypertension, coronary artery disease and prostate cancer.

Years ago I spent a summer in San Francisco. On the Fourth of July I joined the crowd standing on sidewalks to watch the parade. Just down from me were a group of African Americans. There were five young children with them, seated on the curb.

As a band paraded by I noticed a man wearing an apron with a big front pocket stuffed with suckers. As he walked forward he handed a sucker to every child he passed. The black children noticed him and their eyes became shiny with anticipation. They stood up to be easier to be reached. The man noticed them, swerved to walk farther into the street, turned his eyes away and passed them by.

The gleam in the children’s eyes died as they backed up and sat down again, looking smaller and much more fragile.

Once the candy man passed us, he was all smiles again as he handed out suckers to white children. I turned and left, seething with rage.

I live now in a melting pot area. My next-door neighbors are African American. Next to them is a family with an Asian father and an African American mother. Across the street is an Hispanic family. Next door to them the family is Anglo. This intermixture extends all the way down this street and other nearby streets.

On Halloween I keep a large bowl of candy near the door so I can open it quickly when children come by.

The children all ignore the button for the interior chime and knock on the door. If the knock is extremely loud and quickly repeated, I know before I open the door that the child or children on the porch will be black.

I am pleased that they are not yet so beaten down that they creep up like little ghosts, but angered that they already feel so ignored and put down that they feel a loud and repeated knock is necessary or they won’t be treated fairly.

How many more African American males are being set up by our racist society for a high incidence of prostate cancer along with their other problems?

Black men, particularly young black men, often get more severe forms of prostate cancer and are more likely to have it recur and to die from it than young white men. Multiple reasons are suggested for this. Most of these reasons are tied to their lower socio-economic level. Too poor to have health insurance, they have fewer preventive health screenings and, if and when they are diagnosed, they are offered less expensive treatment.

Prostrate cancer is a disease of old men, yet young black men fall victim to it at an alarming rate.

When are we going to overcome our racism and welcome black people into a full and free participation in the country to which we dragged them? Once we do, their rates of prostate cancer and other stress-induced diseases will surely fall.

Now that we have elected our first African American president, there may be hope for us. With the struggle for civil rights well within memory for many of us, it seems hopeful that we have come as far as we have so quickly. At the same time it was a woefully long time in coming and there is still a long, long way to go. May the days ahead prove that we truly can become a fully integrated, non-racist society.


Excerpted from Plagues Past and Present, A Mind/Body/Approach by J. H. Hacsi. Paper, $14.

Available at Baker and Taylor, www.Amazon.com or on order from any bookstore.


J. H. Hacsi graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and earlier in her life wrote short stories (over 200 published) and romance novels (eight published). Throughout her life she has been greatly interested in history and science, also the role of the mind and mysticism and has read widely in these fields. She is a widow with five sons and five grandchildren and lives in Claremont, CA.

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