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Men Underestimate Their Prostate Cancer Risk

Men Underestimate Their Prostate Cancer Risk

Men underestimate their chance of developing prostate cancer even when they are considered "at risk" for the disease, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. The findings were presented at the 26th annual meeting of the American Society of Preventive Oncology, which was held earlier this year in Bethesda, Md.

In the study, 62 men at increased risk of developing prostate cancer received one of two forms of education—either an intensive counseling intervention that provided comprehensive, in-depth education on their personal prostate cancer risk and disease management, or a general health information session that was controlled for time and attention (also conducted one-on-one). Knowledge, risk perceptions, risk-related distress, and intention to adhere to recommendations were assessed upon study entry, at 1 week, and at 6 months after feedback.

At study entry, participants were also divided into two groups: the "high monitors" (those who attend to health threats) and the "blunters" (those who distract themselves from health threats). Additionally, the investigators assessed adherence to a 1-year follow-up screening.

Study Results

The researchers found that 71% of the men in the study answered 25% of baseline knowledge questions incorrectly. After the screening, married men in particular had a better understanding of the disease and their risk. Prostate cancer risk was consistently underestimated, with 44% of the men rating themselves as being at average or below average risk, even at 6-month follow-up.

"We were somewhat surprised at the results, since most of the participants were well-educated individuals," said Suzanne Miller, PhD, director of behavioral medicine at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and lead author of the study. "Men tend to distance themselves from health-related issues. Many of the participants in the study were there because of spousal encouragement. In addition, monitors were less distressed and blunters more distressed about their risk when they received more intensive education."

The researchers concluded that tailoring communication to the individual’s coping style may facilitate adaptation to prostate cancer risk and program adherence.

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