Most Asian Men Show A Better Capacity For Surviving Prostate Cancer than White Men
It has been known for a long time that there are variations in prostate cancer survival rates across ethnic groups and a recently conducted study has now given us some supporting data. Consequently, it ought to be possible to identify factors that will help us to improve prostate cancer treatments.
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most commonly seen form of cancer in American men and it is estimated that almost 219,000 men in the US will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007 and that just over 27,000 men will die from the condition.
However, as with many diseases, prostate cancer survival rates are not the same around the globe and this should provide us with data that will allow us to improve our treatment options.
A recent study examined data on nearly 117,000 men with prostate cancer (including some 108,000 white men and nearly 9,000 Asians drawn from the six largest Asian ethnicities - Korean, Japanese, South Asian, Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese). The study looked at survival rates and prognostic factors for these men.
Amongst the many findings from the study it was seen that the risk profile for Asian men was worse than that for white men, with Asians being more likely to suffer from advanced prostate cancer at the time of diagnosis and of being treated with a range of non-curative therapies. However, the study also found that the survival rates for Asian men were either equal to or better than those for white men.
These results were somewhat surprising when we consider that the average age at which most Asian men are diagnosed with prostate cancer is far higher than that for white men and that their cancer is frequently more advanced, which should clearly indicate a reduced survival rate.
When the figures were examined in more detail however it was found that there was considerable variation between different Asian groups. As an example, Japanese-American men were one-third less likely to die from prostate cancer, while men from South Asia (including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan) were forty percent more likely to die from the disease.
So what does this mean? Well, unfortunately the answer would seem to be very little. These variations are without doubt big enough to be significant, but the wide variation between several largely similar groups means that it is virtually impossible to draw any concrete conclusions. Unquestionably there are a number of things, such as diet, exercise and genetics, that are a factor but several of the findings seem to be almost contradictory.
The result is that, a study that it was believed would identify differences across ethic groups which would enable us to improve prostate cancer treatment has in fact raised more questions that it has answered. In truth, other than pointing to the dangers of drawing conclusions from too large a group, as witnessed in the difference between the figures for Asian men in general and men from just South Asia, the study has shown that the differences were larger than most people had believed and thus suggest that the variations might be more significant than previously believed.
At the end of the day, this study has not taken us any further forward but has at least highlighted the need for further investigation that will hopefully provide us with better data and allow us to take advantage of the higher survival rates in many Asian men in putting together prostate cancer treatment plans.
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