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Study: Religion Impacts Decision on Prostate Cancer Screening in African-American Men



Newswise — African-American men are more likely to have had a digital rectal exam in the past year to screen for prostate cancer if they engage in religious behaviors, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) study published in the American Journal of Men’s Health.

Study co-author Theresa A. Wynn, Ph.D., program director in the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine, and colleagues found that African-American men who engaged in religious behavior, but do not necessarily hold religious beliefs, were nearly two times more likely to have had a digital rectal exam (DRE) than African-American men who do not engage in religious behavior.

“The results of this study clearly demonstrate the important role religious involvement plays with Southeastern African-American men in their prostate cancer-screening practices,” Wynn said. “This is important to understand because African-American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer, and twice as likely to die from the disease, when compared to other men.”

A total of 199 African-American men ages 40 to 92, and living in Alabama, participated in the study. The researchers looked at the role religious behaviors and beliefs played in a man’s decision to be screened for prostate cancer. Religious behavior was defined as participation in religious services and activities. Religious beliefs were defined as close personal relationship with a higher power (e.g., God), and prayer.

Men who reported engaging in religious behavior were found to be 1.7 times more likely to have had a DRE in the past 12 months. Men who reported engaging in both religious beliefs and behaviors were 2.12 times more likely than other men to report thinking about having a DRE within the next six months. And, men who engaged religious behaviors were 7.10 times more likely than those who did not engage in religious behaviors to report having an appointment for a DRE within the next six months.

“Neither religious behavior nor beliefs were significant predictors of whether or not African-American men had or intended to get a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test,” Wynn said. “More studies need to be done to clarify the role that religious beliefs and behaviors play in the lives of African-American men and why religious behaviors and beliefs aren’t predictors for PSA tests as they are for DREs.”

Wynn said previous studies on this topic showed that barriers to prostate-cancer screening for African-American men include limited prostate cancer knowledge, lack of access to screening, embarrassment, fear of diagnosis, distrust of medical professionals and hesitancy to discuss sex-related health issues. The findings of this study, she said, have the potential to inform better design of cancer communication interventions for African-American men.

About the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine
The UAB Division of Preventive Medicine is dedicated to medicine and the health of the public through research, teaching and dissemination and translation of knowledge for improved health outcomes. From its inception in 1967, the division has played a key role in the many groundbreaking trials contributing to the knowledge of medical and health systems, behavioral aspects of disease, epidemiology, prevention, control, and disease outcomes. Special concern for health disparities and a desire to promote women’s health guide many division activities. A research-oriented division, it also has active programs for the training of post doctoral fellows and clinical scholars.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. Please use University of Alabama at Birmingham on first reference and UAB on all consecutive references.


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