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Global Prostate Cancer Disparities in Black Men

, by Makeda Williams

Left to right: Dr. William Aiken (University of the West Indies), Dr. Camille Ragin (Fox Chase Cancer Center),  Honorable Dr. Fenton Ferguson, (Minister, Ministry of Health of the Government of Jamaica), Dr. Folake Odedina (University of Florida), and Dr. Makeda Williams (NCI, Center for Global Health)

Science is expanding at breakthrough speeds, and we are learning more and more about the disproportionate effects of cancer on different races and ethnicities.  This is no different when it comes to prostate cancer.  In the US, African-American men have the highest risk of developing prostate cancer. They are twice and five times as likely to die from the disease as Caucasians and Asian-Americans, respectively. Similar observations were made among African descent populations in the Caribbean, South America and the United Kingdom. In Africa, prostate cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer, with men from sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) experiencing the highest rates of prostate cancer mortality in the world. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has projected an alarming 101% increase in the mortality rate for this disease in SSA over the next two decades.

To highlighted the importance of addressing prostate cancer in Black men, while building collaborations between scientists and advocates, the 3rd Biennial Science of Global Prostate Cancer Disparities in Black Men Conference was organized by three international NCI-supported cancer epidemiology consortia, namely the Trans-Atlantic Cancer Consortium, the African Caribbean Cancer Consortium and the Men of African Descent and Carcinoma of the Prostate Consortium, in Montego Bay, Jamaica on November 5th - 8th, 2014. The goal of this conference was to develop and maintain a global community of practice that will continue to address common challenges in eliminating prostate cancer disparities worldwide. Jamaica was chosen as the conference location due to the high burden of prostate cancer in this country.

I had the honor to represent the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Center for Global Health (CGH) in serving as Conference Speakers Chair, and moderate the opening ceremony featuring the Jamaican Minister of Health and Mayor of Montego Bay.   In addition, I also had the pleasure of moderating sessions on personalized medicine and public and private research and training opportunities. In collaboration with several colleagues from across the NCI, including, among others, the Center for Cancer Research (CCR), Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD), and Division of Cancer Prevention (DCP). CGH Director, Dr. Ted Trimble, gave a dynamic keynote address on U.S. government support for biomedical research and global health, CGH’s signature themes, and leveraging CGH’s partnerships to address the global burden of prostate cancer in Black men.  Dr. Trimble’s keynote speech was nicely followed by a presentation from Dr. Damali Martin from the NCI, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS), on developing collaborations for effective research for prostate cancer.

Chaired by experts in the field, Drs. Folake Odedina of the University of Florida, Camille Ragin of Fox Chase Cancer Center, and William Aiken of the University of the West Indies at Mona, the 3rd Biennial Science of Global Prostate Cancer Disparities in Black Men Conference made great strides in meeting its objectives.  Developing and maintaining sustainable partnerships to advance research in prostate cancer disparities in Black men is a key component to overcoming this burden.

As a member of the Conference Committee, I look forward to sharing with you additional details on significant efforts being made to alleviate prostate cancer disparities in Black men worldwide through conference proceedings, publications, and future plans as these become available.

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