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American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) men are less likely to receive prostate cancer screening than other racial groups, according to new research from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

The study appears online in Cancer Causes and Control, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by Springer Science+Business Media.

According to the study, prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in men the United States and the second most common cancer-related death in AI/AN men.

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While AI/AN men have a higher rate of death from prostate cancer — especially between the ages of 50-59 years old — they are less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Associate professor Chris Gillette, the study's principal author, notes that this may happen because, without timely screenings, AI/AN men aren’t seeking care until their prostate cancer is more advanced. 

There are two tests that providers can use that help diagnose prostate cancer, including a digital rectal exam (DRE) and blood tests that measure the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). 

“We found that AI/AN men were significantly less likely to receive a PSA test than non-AI/AN men,” Gillette said in the study. 

The study conducted a secondary analysis of the National Ambulatory Medicare Care Survey (NAMCS), which showed a disparity in cancer screening that could potentially impact prostate cancer mortality in Native men.

At the national level, AI/AN men were significantly less likely to receive PSA and DRE than non-AI/AN men during the years 2013-2016 and 2018 during physician visits to non-federal clinics. There were zero instances of DREs in the traditional NAMCS over the entire five-year period and there were no PSAs conducted after 2014.

The study concluded that efforts are needed to better understand why providers may not use PSA and DRE with AI/AN men compared to men in other racial or ethnic groups.

“Additional research is needed to explore how providers discuss PSA and DRE with this population, why there are differences in screening practices and to examine access to care,” Gillette said.

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Kaili Berg
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Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.