Prostate cancer disparities in South Carolina: early detection, special programs, and descriptive epidemiology.
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Available evidence suggests that there may be qualitative differences in the natural history of PrCA by race. If this is true then additional etiologic research is needed to identify places in the causal chain where we can intervene to lower PrCA rates in AA men. South Carolina may prove to be a useful context in which to study prostate cancer etiology, because of the presence of unique environmental exposures. For example, soil selenium and cadmium concentrations unique to South Carolina might have a differential affect in the rural areas of the state where ground water use is more common and where AAs are more likely to live. These metals are important in terms of prostate metabolism and cancer. The possible interaction of geological factors with underlying biological factors such as metal transporter gene expression by race needs to be explored in South Carolina. Diet and exercise are consistently seen as possible primary prevention strategies for prostate and other cancers, as noted above. There may be very good reasons to intervene on diet and physical activity, but if the intention is to make a health claim with real, specific meaning for PrCA prevention and control then studies must be designed to test the effect of these modalities in rigorous ways at specific points in the natural history of prostate carcinogenesis. Nutrition and exercise programs need to be developed in South Carolina that are seen as acceptable by people at risk of PrCA; and they will need to focus on effective ways to prevent the development of PrCA, other cancers, and other health outcomes. Implementing diet and nutrition programs in rural parts of the state, possibly through schools or churches, offer benefit to both youth and adults alike. So, it would be possible, indeed it would be desirable, to create programs that may be used for research in one part of the population (e.g., men with PrCA), but are equally beneficial for others (e.g., their spouses and children). Organizing studies that can focus on promising new areas of research and changing the paradigms under which the research community currently operates probably will require re-conceptualizing research strategies employing methods that entail CBPR approaches. Because much of South Carolina's African-American population resides in rural parts of the state, outreach presents a challenge for both researchers and clinicians. Individuals living in rural areas are more likely than urban residents to live in poverty, report poorer health status, and not have private health insurance. Americans living in rural areas face disparities in access to basic public health services compared to those living in metropolitan areas. In very practical ways, local public health departments are absent in many rural communities, and rural hospitals continue to close, removing needed services. Closing of public hospitals has been shown to significantly increase the percentage of people without a primary health care provider as well as the percentage of people denied care. Public health departments are of particular importance to rural residents as they serve as the main avenue for public health and clinical care for this group. Issues such as access to care, lack of frequent physician's visits and quality of medical care have a negative impact on outcomes for men with PrCA, particularly in relationship to staging. If better outcomes are to be achieved in South Carolina, then more must be done to reach the community and provide better access to care in more rural areas of the state. Small media interventions, such as those presented in churches and barbershops may be an effective means for reaching the rural AA population. Our ability to reach out to and interact with the high-risk pockets in the state will be necessary for screening, treatment, and research (which, if conducted competently, will affect screening efficacy, treatment effectiveness, and primary prevention). It is believed that currently available decision-making materials for PrCA screening may not be appropriate due to socioeconomic as well as health literacy differences present in all male groups. It is unclear whether men in the lower socioeconomic groups are given appropriate information that allows them to make educated, informed decisions around PrCA screenings. Considering the number of males in the lower socioeconomic groups in South Carolina and the large AA male population, research evaluating the appropriateness of the existing materials could have an impact --both within the state and in national efforts. Patient education is a promising strategy, but educating the patient in the context of his family seems to be a more effective strategy for this population. Family networks and faith-based networks offer a strong support base for the patient when making health-related decisions, particularly for the African-American male. In collaboration with the SCCDCN, the South Carolina Cancer Alliance (SCCA) is currently developing a proposal to create a decision guide for prostate screening that is targeted toward the African-American male. The SCCA plans to pilot test new, culturally appropriate materials in the Low Country of South Carolina because of its comparatively large African-American population and its high rate of residential stability. South Carolina is one of only a few states to adopt expanded Medicaid coverage for the treatment of breast cancer. PrCA needs to receive equal recognition. This year alone in South Carolina 3,290 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 630 will die from the disease. Likewise, the American Cancer Society estimated 3,770 men in South Carolina would be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 440 will die from the disease in 2006. The 1 million dollars set aside in South Carolina budget by lawmakers for treatment of breast and cervical cancer patients makes no mention of prostate cancer, which is an unfair omission. Finally, there currently exists a number of high-quality PrCA treatment, research, and referral resources in the state. Collaborations across agencies, institutes and organizations throughout South Carolina would prove to be beneficial in reaching the most rural (and therefore hardest to reach) populations. Collaborative arrangements will be pursued to increase positive outcomes and better futures for South Carolinians.