December 18, 2023
The UNC Men’s Health Program and Carolina Demography have unveiled an interactive web-based tool aimed at raising awareness and addressing disparities related to prostate cancer in North Carolina. The tool, “Prostate Cancer Across North Carolina,” provides a detailed, county-by-county map view of prostate cancer cases and deaths, offering valuable insights for local and state organizations as well as the public. The map helps users access downloadable county-specific prostate cancer reports utilizing the latest data from the National Cancer Institute’s State Cancer Profiles (currently from 2016-2020).
KEY FEATURES OF THE TOOL:
- County-by-county map: The tool presents a visually compelling map of N.C., highlighting prostate cancer cases and deaths at the county level.
- Detailed reports: Each county features a downloadable, detailed report, breaking down new cases and deaths by race/ethnicity, providing medical professionals, policy leaders and individuals a more complete as well as nuanced understanding of the prostate cancer landscape.
NOTEWORTHY STATE AND COUNTY-SPECIFIC STATISTICS FROM THIS TOOL:
- New cases: 124 cases per 100,000 men statewide
- Deaths: 20 deaths per 100,000 men statewide
- Highest new cases per 100,000: Anson (171), Edgecombe (152), Halifax (152)
- Lowest new cases per 100,000: Graham (56), Gates (75), Wilkes (78)
- Highest deaths per 100,000: Hertford (32), Edgecombe (29), Halifax (29)
- Lowest deaths per 100,000: McDowell (12), Watauga (13), Lee (14)
- 21 counties have too few cases reported to calculate death rates
- Statewide rankings: N.C. ranks 11th in the nation for new prostate cancer cases and 20th for deaths, making it the second leading cause of cancer death for men in the state, behind only lung cancer.
- Racial Disparities: Black men are 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 2.3 times more likely to die from prostate cancer compared to white men. Native American men face similar disparities.
- Geographical Variances: Counties such as Anson, Edgecombe, and Halifax Counties report the highest number of new cases, while Graham, Gates, and Wilkes report the lowest.
A CALL TO ACTION:
The UNC Men’s Health Program, housed at the UNC School of Medicine, and Carolina Demography, housed at the Carolina Population Center at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, envision this tool as a catalyst for positive change, urging local and state organizations, as well as the public, to advocate for enhanced access to screenings, monitoring and appropriate treatments.
Early detection remains pivotal to improve survival rates, with 5-year survival rates near 100% when the cancer remains localized to the prostate, compared to 34% for cases diagnosed after cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
In addition, new and improved diagnostic tools and technologies that have become available in the past several years now make it easier to detect the disease in the early stages, making screening more accurate than ever.
A significant factor contributing to the disparities in prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment in N.C. is the distinct difference in health care-seeking behaviors between men and women. Men, often due to societal pressures, tend to downplay the importance of screening and interventions for many health concerns. Barriers in access, such as the distance from health care providers in rural areas and the affordability of care, can hinder regular preventative health appointments, contributing to alarming disparities in our communities.
A particularly affected community in N.C. is Black men, facing not only a higher risk of prostate cancer but also diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Currently, Black men are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed than men of other racial and ethnic groups – the largest disparity for any major cancer in men or women. These issues not only affect individuals but also have profound impacts on their families.
REACHING BEYOND ADVOCACY – INTERACTIVE COMMUNITY EVENTS
The UNC Men’s Health Program recently hosted an event called “Men, Know Your Numbers” focused on raising awareness and screening men for common health issues.
The highly successful gathering was held in September 2023 in Wilson, NC and emphasized health concerns affecting Black men, particularly prostate cancer. Event highlights included:
- A distinguished panel, including basketball legend Phil Ford, community advocates Victor Taylor and Dennis Williams, and insights from Men’s Health Program Director Eric Wallen, MD, professor of urology at the UNC School of Medicine and member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
- LabCorp, a key supporter, provided free blood draws onsite, assessing crucial health metrics such as PSA, Hemoglobin A1C, and cholesterol levels.
- The Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN) also contributed by providing educational materials.
The next screening event is scheduled for Feb. 10, 2024, at the Jasper G. Hayes Omega Center in New Bern, N.C. Phil Ford, Victor Taylor and Wallen will again share their expertise, underscoring the program’s commitment to proactive men’s health and community engagement.
COMING SOON: MEN’S HEALTH REPORT CARD
Beyond the new “Prostate Cancer Across North Carolina” tool, the Men’s Health Program is collaborating with Carolina Demography to create a “Men’s Health Report Card,” a comprehensive health and demographic report complementing the existing Women’s Health Report Card from the Center for Women’s Health Research at UNC.
The Men’s Health Report Card is expected to be available in early 2024.
“Many prostate cancer deaths, as well as other devastating events like heart attacks and strokes, can be prevented or avoided with early detection – when the problem is more treatable and curable,” said Wallen, who is also vice chair of education for the UNC Department of Urology. “The UNC Men’s Health Program seeks to raise community awareness and help patients get tested by partnering with communities to identify risks not just to men but to their families and communities, because any serious illness has a ripple effect on everyone who knows the patient. Newer, better tools to test for and treat prostate cancer means that we can identify and help the men who really need care and, just as important, avoid unnecessary treatment in those who do not.”
This effort is co-led by Samuel Baxter, PhD, MPH, in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Gillings School.
“Many of us at UNC strive for ways to connect our research to public needs and impact,” Baxter said. “I hope the Prostate Cancer Map will be viewed for what it is – a tool to raise awareness, conversation, empowerment, and synergy to improve health for all men, across race, ethnicity, and place. Through data visualization, we hope that communities, clinicians, practitioners and researchers will become inspired and interested to collaborate with the UNC Men’s Health Program and its growing partnerships that serve N.C.
Project co-leader Nathan Dollar, PhD, director of Carolina Demography at the Carolina Population Center, said, “We are excited to announce our collaboration with the UNC Men’s Health Program and Gillings School of Public Health to develop the Prostate Cancer Across North Carolina interactive web-based tool. Our mission at Carolina Demography has always been centered around providing the people of N.C. with the data they need to make informed decisions. The Prostate Cancer Across North Carolina interactive map is a significant step forward in achieving this goal. By offering detailed insights into new cases and mortality rates for each N.C. county, we aim to raise awareness and empower individuals, health care professionals and policymakers across the state to create policies and practices that will reduce disparities, improve outcomes for all, and save lives.”
Adriane Bowens, UNC Men’s Health Program
Melody Kramer, Carolina Demography
Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at email@example.com.