Prostate cancer discriminates, Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston told a crowd at the State House gathered Thursday to increase awareness of the disease that kills nearly 30,000 American men each year.
African-American men are 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 250 times more likely to die from the disease than men in any other ethnic group, say advocates who held the sixth annual Prostate Cancer Awareness Day.
Walsh, a childhood cancer survivor, said, “We have to end the silence around prostate cancer.”
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death in US men, after lung cancer. In Massachusetts, it strikes 1 in 7 men statewide. Nearly 6,000 men in Massachusetts will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014, according to figures compiled by the Cancer Research Foundation.
Too many men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not get it detected early because they do not get screened, doctors said. Prostate cancer is curable when detected early, but a lack of awareness or stigma contributes to the low screening rates, they said.
The number of men screened for prostate cancer in Boston dropped 40 percent in recent years, according to AdMeTech Foundation, a nonprofit organization that developed diagnostic imaging technology, the Manogram.
“If we can get more men talking about prostate cancer, we can get more men surviving prostate cancer,” Walsh said.
Three lawmakers who survived the disease have made it a goal to increase awareness. Representative Stephen Kulik, Democrat of Worthington; Senator Stephen Brewer, Democrat of Barre; and Senator Kenneth Donnelly, Democrat of Arlington, support creation of a state prostate cancer and education awareness program.
During the event, Brewer mentioned to the crowd that lawmakers hammering out the annual state budget are looking at a $500,000 line item for education and awareness. After the event, Brewer, one of the lawmakers negotiating the budget, declined to say if the funding would be included.
Four-time Boston Marathon winner Bill Rodgers, a prostate cancer survivor, compared the disease to running the Marathon. In August, Rodgers, along with the Cancer Research Foundation, hosted a 5-kilometer road race and walk at Boston College to raise funds for an awareness campaign.