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Genetics in Men of African Descent Linked to Development of Prostate Tumors

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Men of African descent that have been diagnosed with prostate cancer may have been genetically susceptible to developing cancer, according to a new study by an HBCU researcher. 

In the study conducted by Tuskegee University and presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Conference, Dr. Clayton Yates, a professor and director of Tuskegee’s Center for Biomedical Research, looked at the DNA sequences of men with prostate cancer and different descent; participants were mostly of Nigerian, African American and European American descent.  

“Our goal was to understand the genomic contributions to prostate cancer among Nigerian men, something that had never been studied before,” Dr. Yates said per the Tuskegee University website. “We performed sequencing to determine if there were unique mutations associated with the Nigerian population that were distinct from those in tumors from African Americans or European Americans, as well as to identify any similarities across these populations.”

In their findings, Dr. Yates and his fellow researchers found that there were specific differences in the genetic makeup of the Nigerian participants when compared to the genetic makeup of the participants of European American descent. As for the genetic makeup of the African American participants, the variations were similar to those of the Nigerian participants. Of the variations they found, the most significant was the genetic mutation of BRCA1, the gene that creates the proteins that stop tumors from occurring and growing. 

In recent years, the rate of prostate cancer in the U.S. has increased exponentially. According to the American Cancer Society, as of now, 268,490 new cases of prostate cancer have been identified in 2022 with 34,500 patients already passing away as a result of the cancer. Overall, one in every eight men living in the U.S. will receive a prostate cancer diagnosis. 

While every racial or ethnic group is susceptible to developing the cancer, prostate cancer, known as “the second leading cause of cancer death,” is most often found amongst Black men. According to the latest report by the nonprofit ZERO, Black American men are 1.7 more likely than white American men to receive a prostate cancer diagnosis; in terms of survival ratings, Black American men with this type of cancer are 2.1 times more likely to pass away when compared to white American men. 

Early detection, however, has been proven to have had an impact on the survival rate. According to ZERO, there’s a 99% chance of survival in five years amongst Black men when the cancer is detected in its earliest stages. Meanwhile, the rate drops substantially when the cancer is diagnosed in advanced stages, going from 99% to 31%. 

As the director of nonprofit Prostate Cancer Transatlantic Consortium, Dr. Yates is working on improving these rates through not only his studies.

“The mission of CaPTC is to provide education and support for investigators around the world whose research focuses on understanding prostate cancer in men of African descent,” said Dr. Yates per the American Association for Cancer Research. “Our ultimate goal is to increase survival rates for prostate cancer in Black men.”  

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