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Men Underestimate Their Prostate Cancer Risk

(PHILADELPHIA) -- March 11, 2002 - Men underestimate their chances of developing prostate cancer even when they are considered "at-risk" for developing the disease, says a new study 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 in Bethesda, Maryland on March 11, 2002.

In the study, 62 men who were at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer received either one of two forms of education. The first being an intensive counseling intervention providing comprehensive, in-depth education on their personal prostate cancer risk and disease management or a general health information control. Knowledge, risk perceptions, risk-related distress and intentions to adhere to recommendations were assessed upon entry, at one week and at six months after feedback. At entry, participants also were categorized into two groups, high monitors (those who attend to health threats) and blunters (those who distract from health threats). Additionally, adherence to a one-year follow-up screening was assessed.

The researchers found that the majority or 71 percent of the men answered 25 percent 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 percent of the men rating themselves an average or below average even at six-month follow-up.

"We were somewhat surprised at the results since most of the participants were well-educated individuals," says Suzanne Miller, Ph.D., director of Behavioral Medicine at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and lead author on 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 conclude that tailoring communications to individual coping style may facilitate adaptation to prostate cancer risk and program adherence.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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