Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men (next to skin cancer), and it is a special concern for African Americans. For reasons that aren’t completely understood, African American men are at higher risk than others for prostate cancer and are more likely to be diagnosed younger with more challenging disease. Connecting African American men with health care and cancer screening to help change these disparities is critical. Lifestyle after cancer treatment is another important factor because lifestyle affects treatment side effects, the chance of cancer coming back and other health conditions a man may develop.

Melinda Stolley, PhD, associate director for Population Health at the Medical College of Wisconsin, is among leaders at the MCW Cancer Center (the research arm of the Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network) who are trying to reduce differences in how African American men survive cancer — called disparities. Their study, Men Moving Forward, is helping men who have had prostate cancer adopt healthier lifestyles.

“Compared to other men who had prostate cancer, African American men report worse quality of life,” Dr. Stolley said. “They’re interested in lifestyle programs but few resources are available. With lifestyle changes, we think they will improve their quality of life and chances of living longer.”

Among factors men can control are health behaviors and body composition — the amount of fat in the body vs. muscle and bone. Poor diet and not being active lead to having more fat than muscle. That leads to changes in hormones, inflammation in the body and insulin resistance — all connected with cancer and other diseases like diabetes. Studies that help change lifestyles report good results for prostate cancer survivors, but in the past, African American men have had limited involvement. Men Moving Forward supports African American prostate cancer survivors in embracing activity and nutrition that improve body composition and quality of life. The goal is to reduce risk for chronic diseases and prostate cancer coming back.

The 16-week program will enroll Milwaukee-area men in phases over the next several years. It is open to African Americans who finished prostate cancer treatment at least six months before joining the study or men who have slow-growing prostate cancer and are being checked regularly by their doctor. Men have interviews and tests to measure strength and body composition before and after the program to see how well the study worked.

“We think the results will show these men can live better and longer by committing to lifestyle changes,” Dr. Stolley said. “By encouraging these changes and improving access to health care and cancer screening, we’re determined to reduce cancer disparities among African Americans in Milwaukee.”

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