To better understand environmental and genetic impacts associated with prostate cancer in African American men, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) began a new study, Research on Prostate Cancer in Men of African Ancestry: Defining the Roles of Genetics, Tumor Markers, and Social Stress (RESPOND).

The research program has received more than $26 million in funding and seeks to understand why African American men have disproportionally higher rates of aggressive prostate cancer than any other racial or ethnic population.

Currently, African American men have a 15% chance of developing prostate cancer throughout their lifetimes, a 5% increase compared to Caucasian men. The NIH report also indicates that African American men are also more likely to experience aggressive forms of prostate cancer than other prostate cancer populations. Moreover, the risk of death associated with prostate cancer in African American men is 4%, double that of other ethnic groups.

National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director Ned Sharpless, MD, said, “Understanding why African American men are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive prostate is a critical, unanswered question in cancer disparities research. This large, collaborative study can help the cancer research community better understand and address these disparities.”

For the outset of the study, investigators will enroll 10,000 participants identified by the NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, along with help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Program of Cancer Registries. They’ll examine genetic factors as well as environmental impacts, including neighborhood stressors, discrimination, early-life adversity, and segregation. NCI will also look at DNA and tumor samples to identify key gene variants associated with aggressive prostate cancer.