Men Underestimate Their Prostate Cancer Risk

June 1, 2002

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

Men underestimate their chance ofdeveloping prostate cancer even when they are considered "at risk" forthe disease, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Fox ChaseCancer Center in Philadelphia. The findings were presented at the 26th annualmeeting of the American Society of Preventive Oncology, which was held earlierthis year in Bethesda, Md.

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

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

Study Results

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

"We were somewhat surprised at the results, since mostof the participants were well-educated individuals," said Suzanne Miller,PhD, director of behavioral medicine at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphiaand lead author of the study. "Men tend to distance themselves fromhealth-related issues. Many of the participants in the study were there becauseof spousal encouragement. In addition, monitors were less distressed andblunters more distressed about their risk when they received more intensiveeducation."

The researchers concluded that tailoring communication to the individual’scoping style may facilitate adaptation to prostate cancer risk and programadherence.