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Support Care Cancer. 2011 Jul;19(7):899-907. doi: 10.1007/s00520-010-0880-3. Epub 2010 Apr 23.

Racial disparities in traumatic stress in prostate cancer patients: secondary analysis of a National URCC CCOP Study of 317 men.

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  • 1Washington University in St. Louis, Health Communication Research Laboratory, 700 Rosedale Ave., Campus Box 1009, St. Louis, MO 63112, USA. jpurnell@gwbmail.wustl.edu



African American men have the highest rates of prostate cancer of any racial group, but very little is known about the psychological functioning of African American men in response to prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment.


In this secondary analysis of a national trial testing a psychological intervention for prostate cancer patients, we report on the traumatic stress symptoms of African American and non-African American men.


This analysis includes 317 men (African American: n = 30, 9%; non-African American: n = 287, 91%) who were enrolled in the intervention trial, which included 12 weeks of group psychotherapy and 24 months of follow-up. Using mixed model analysis, total score on the Impact of Events Scale (IES) and its Intrusion and Avoidance subscales were examined to determine mean differences in traumatic stress across all time points (0, 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months). In an additional analysis, relevant psychosocial, demographic, and clinical variables were added to the model.


Results showed significantly higher levels of traumatic stress for African American men compared to non-African American men in all models independently of the intervention arm, demographics, and relevant clinical variables. African Americans also had a consistently higher prevalence of clinically significant traumatic stress symptoms (defined as IES total score ≥ 27). These elevations remained across all time points over 24 months.


This is the first study to show a racial disparity in traumatic stress specifically as an aspect of overall psychological adjustment to prostate cancer. Recommendations are made for appropriate assessment, referral, and treatment of psychological distress in this vulnerable population.

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