Putting Prostate Cancer Awareness into Action

A Perspective from the COMPPARE Minority Engagement Group

Charles GriggsSince 1999, thanks to the efforts of the American Foundation for Urological Disease (AFUD), the month of September has been devoted to Prostate Cancer Awareness.

Hospitals, treatment centers, universities, charitable organizations, and even workplaces offer information, reminders, fundraisers, and related events during September, all in an effort to combat the grim reality: Approximately one man in nine will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, and one in 41 will die from this disease. An estimated 191,930 new cases of prostate cancer and 33,330 deaths from prostate cancer are estimated this year alone.

So is “awareness” enough? Maybe not. A recent study[1] utilized Google Trends to determine the relative search volume (RSV) for “breast cancer,” “prostate cancer,” and “testicular cancer” from 2010 to 2017. Breast Cancer Awareness Month led to a significant increase in cancer-specific RSV in October each year during the study period, but none of the men’s cancer awareness campaigns led to a significant increase in cancer-specific RSV in any year during the study period.

While it can be argued that search trends alone are not the best indicator of success, consider that African-American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry, who are at highest risk of developing prostate cancer, are unfortunately even less inclined to be influenced by online or traditional promotional efforts. In fact, research in 2018[2] showed that grassroots, community-driven initiatives might be far more effective.

This could be true for all men. A 2015 study examining the effectiveness of men’s health programs in Ireland [3] concluded that gender-specific strategies, especially those involving community engagement, are essential to “creating programs that both promote men’s health and enable men to safely and comfortably participate.” In addition, when men were actually involved in developing and implementing programs, those initiatives were found to be more accessible and acceptable for men.

“We have found that education programs tied to sports, outdoor activities and places where men find comfort – such as barber shops and sports bars – are typically more likely to be successful,” confirms Charles Griggs (shown above), COMPPARE Minority Engagement Group Coordinator. “For Black men, the awareness needs to be even more concentrated and focused on safe places. In particular, these include barber shops, churches and family gatherings.”

Charles continues, “While Prostate Cancer Awareness is a great way to educate men on prevention, diagnosis and treatment, more resources should be dedicated for messaging to be effective.”

Learn more about COMPPARE’s Minority Engagement Group here.

[1] Mehul S Patel, Joshua A Halpern, Anuj S Desai, Mary Kate Keeter, Nelson E Bennett, Robert E Brannigan. Success of Prostate and Testicular Cancer Awareness Campaigns Compared to Breast Cancer Awareness Month According to Internet Search Volumes: A Google Trends Analysis. 2020 May; 139:64-70. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2019.11.062. Epub 2020 Jan 27. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32001306/

[2] Louis F Graham, Lamont Scott, Erus Lopeyok, Henry Douglas, Aline Gubrium, David Buchanan. Outreach Strategies to Recruit Low-Income African American Men to Participate in Health Promotion Programs and Research: Lessons From the Men of Color Health Awareness (MOCHA) Project. Am J Mens Health. 2018 Sep; 12(5): 1307–1316. Published online 2018 Apr 26. doi: 10.1177/1557988318768602. PMCID: PMC6142128

[3] Maya Lefkowich, Noel Richardson, Steve Robertson. “If We Want to Get Men in, Then We Need to Ask Men What They Want”: Pathways to Effective Health Programing for Men. Am J Mens Health. 2017 Sep; 11(5): 1512–1524. Published online 2015 Nov 26. doi: 10.1177/1557988315617825 PMCID: PMC5675200