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Black History Month: “Our ultimate goal is to save the lives of black men”

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Published on 12 October 2022

Dr Olugbenga Oyeniyi and John Kabuye
Dr Olugbenga Oyeniyi and John Kabuye

Sunderland researchers are drawing on Black History Month to raise awareness of their study that aims to develop an intervention in partnership with black men that highlights the risk of prostate cancer and encourages early diagnosis.

The study has been awarded £157,688 in funding as part of charity Prostate Cancer Research’s racial disparities research programme, aimed at addressing the health inequalities in prostate cancer. 

Black men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer compared to white men, and 2.5 times more likely to die from the disease. Despite this, previous research from Prostate Cancer Research found that only a quarter (24%) of black men were aware of this increased risk. 

Researchers at the University of Sunderland are now working with members of the black community in Scotland and the north-east to develop and run workshops to raise awareness of prostate cancer risks, encourage men to get help early, and discover the barriers to seeking help. 

Members of the Sunderland research team - Dr Floor Christie-de Jong, Dr Olugbenga Oyeniyi, John Kabuye and Professor Jonathan Ling - hope the profile of Black History Month (October), which recognises the contribution and achievements of the black community, acts as a springboard to raising awareness of the two-year study. 

Lead researcher, Dr Christie-de Jong, said: "We are in the very early stages of our project, investigating the barriers as to why black men don’t seek help early, and together with the men we will develop, test and refine tactics that might help.

“Our ultimate goal is to save the lives of black men, we want to make this community aware of the risk so they can make informed choices and go to a GP, who can then advise them on their next step based on a clinical decision.  

“Early diagnosis can save lives, but black men are often diagnosed late. Action is needed urgently to ensure everyone can benefit from early diagnosis of prostate cancer, particularly people at higher risk.” 

Research Associate, Olugbenga Oyeniyi added: “The issues are very complex, and we are using a very targeted approach to investigate the barriers to early diagnosis. “Some of the barriers could be simply not knowing enough about prostate cancer, or knowing the risks, it could be due to embarrassment, or not having great experiences in healthcare, even cultural issues around this area of the body. Men may feel demasculated, worried about those tests. These are all issues which we want to draw out through our work and will inform our choice on where to go next.  

“Together, we can then build an intervention to raise awareness and Black History Month is the ideal platform to begin promoting our work.” 

The Sunderland team are working in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Glasgow, Professor Katie Robb and Dr Marie Kotzur, Associate Professor Judith Eberhardt from Teesside University and Middlesbrough-based Ubuntu Multicultural Centre. 

John, a research assistant and also Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Ubuntu Centre, said: “In our communities, there is lack of participation in screening for prostate cancer by black men. We need to know, if this is influenced by several cultural factors, lack of knowledge, health beliefs, barriers, and relationships with primary healthcare providers. 

 

“Factors that affect the willingness of black men to engage in prostate cancer screening will be part of this research, thanks to Prostate Cancer Research for the funding. Our main focus will be to develop an intervention that addresses these barriers, and we do that in partnership with the community. That’s what is unique about our project.” 

Prostate Cancer Research has committed to funding at least three rounds of targeted projects which will explore solutions to the racial disparity within prostate cancer over the next three years, as part of a broader health inequities programme which also focuses on health literacy and data. 

Dr Naomi Elster, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer Research, said: “Dr Christie-de Jong and her team have a strong track record of working with communities to co-design the things that would help them access early diagnosis, and we are very happy to support a team that puts such a strong focus on handing over control to the people with lived experience of an issue, so it’s not a top-down approach. 

“It’s also important that we take location into account – if you are a member of an ethnic minority in the north-east and Scotland, where this work is based, your experiences are likely to be different to if you lived in some of the larger cities in the south, and what you need might be different too. We’re proud to support work that focuses on providing the right support to people, where they are.” 

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