New research says that prostate cancer can follow significantly different tracks in different ethnic groups.
The study published in the journal Cancer, zooms in on Asian-American men. It gives prostate cancer patients and doctors, something to think about when deciding on treatment courses.
Previous studies have depicted that Asian Americans get diagnosed with prostate cancer less frequently, while African-Americans get diagnosed more frequently and at an especially advanced and lethal stage when compared with whites. This is why early and frequent screening is particularly important in blacks.
Now, the researchers say they have found one more advantage to being of Asian descent- some factor seems to partially shield most from this group even when they do develop the cancer.
The study from the California Cancer Registry in Sacramento found that average survival time was longer in five of the six Asian ethnic groups that were analyzed than it was among whites, even though initial factors suggested the Asians might die first.
For example, the risk of a Japanese-American prostate patient dying, was observed to be 34 percent lower than it is for a white patient. At the same time, an exception highlights the limitations of clumping multiple Asian ethnicities into one group: South Asians have worse survival rates than whites by some 40 percent, the study found.
Says Anthony Robbins, a study author and epidemiologist: "For nearly all the groups we studied, being Asian seems to give you a favorable prognosis."
Robbins and his colleagues hypothesize that Asian-American dietary patterns—which tend to include less fat, more soy, and more vegetables than a typical American diet—may play a role. Likewise, levels of testosterone, a hormone that aids prostate tumor growth, tend to be lower among Asians, say some studies.
Mark Scholz, who co-founded the Prostate Cancer Research Institute in Los Angeles, subscribes to the view that diet is the critical factor. He argues that the medical community has been slow to realize that high-fat diets promote tumor growth. "In the United States, cancers grow better because we feed them better," he says. Scholz even recommends a vegetarian diet to his prostate cancer patients, though he warns against overloading on soy.
Robbins believes however, that the "Asian edge" is primarily due to the fact that Asians tend to have good health overall when they're diagnosed with prostate cancer. According to him, Asians tend to suffer from fewer coexisting medical conditions, such as heart disease or obesity. This makes them more robust and able to withstand prostate cancer treatment, he opines.
It can rightly be concluded that a good prognosis might encourage a patient to turn down aggressive treatment, in this way avoiding the high likelihood of suffering treatment-related side effects.
Still, patients cannot and must not, simply use their ethnicity to make treatment choices, Robbins warns. "This is just one more piece of information that should go into the decision-making process," he emphasizes.