High cancer rates for Goochland black men

By Evrod Cassimy – bio | email

GOOCHLAND, VA (WWBT) - The town of Goochland has a dark secret that most people are unaware of. Black men living here have the highest rate of prostate cancer compared to other men across the state, according to the Virginia Health Department. The news didn't surprise some of the Goochland residents we spoke with.

"My uncle died from prostate cancer," said one resident. "I've already been checked," added another. "But I believe my grandfather may have had it."

Researchers with the Virginia Department of Health made this discovery when looking at prostate cancer cases all across the Commonwealth.

From 1997 to 2006 in Goochland County, black males made up about 35% of the population with prostate cancer. In Henrico County, about 24% and in Chesterfield County about 17%. Now state health officials are trying to determine why.

"I know that across the board, the entire US, black men are at higher risk to develop prostate cancer than are white men," said Dr. Jim Martin with the Virginia Department of Health. "So there may be some kind of genetic factor at work here."

Factor in the age of the population surveyed in Goochland, and that could also explain it. Prostate cancer is a form of cancer in a man's prostate, an organ located under the bladder. Men over the age of 45 are more at risk for the disease. If you fall into the high risk category, you should talk with your health care provider.

"We want to hook up the patient with their doctor because this is really a conversation, the patient needs to know about prostate cancer if you're a man whether you're white or black," said Dr. Brooke Rossheim with the Chickahominy Health District. "They need to talk to their doctor about whether they want to be screened for the disease."

"I try to once a year when I go get an annual physical examination," said Goochland resident, Jeffrey Turner.

While there are no clear preventative measures for prostate cancer, researchers have found that education is key when battling this disease.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.