This article originally appeared in BLAC’s Sept. 2010 issue. It has been edited to reflect updated information.
he Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program, a National Cancer Institute research division, estimates that prostate cancer will claim the lives of 28,170 men this year alone.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for Black men and their mortality rate is twice as high as White males.
Fashion designer William Malcolm has a history of prostate cancer in his family. His grandfather, Louis Pollard, died after being diagnosed when that disease was in an advanced stage.
“I just remember the feeling of the room and all the faces of my family members,” says Malcolm, whose grandfather was given two to four weeks to live when diagnosed in 1996. “I was dumbfounded.”
As a result, in 2010, Malcolm launched The Blue Tie Project in order use his fashion expertise to combat prostate cancer. The initiative donates all proceeds generated from tie sales-which have a special label to remind men to get a yearly check-up-to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit committed to researching, preventing and treating prostate cancer.
“There is a lot of research in the difference between African Americans and other races in the development of prostate cancer, but there’s not yet a set reason why African Americans are more susceptible,” says Dr. Jeffrey Montgomery, assistant professor at the Department of Urology the University of Michigan. “One of the reasons why breast cancer research is so successful is that women communicate…where as we as men tend to ignore [prostate cancer] and not talk about it.”
It is recommended that African-American men start getting screened at age 40. Common symptoms for prostate cancer include erectile dysfunction, trouble urinating and bloody urine, but they don’t usually occur during the earlier stages of prostate cancer when the disease is most easily curable.
A patient has a 90 percent chance or better of survival if the disease is caught early. Malcolm’s initiative, along with outspoken survivors like Thomas, have the potential to convince more men to get screened. And that can mean the difference between death and life.