Reactions to Recommendations and Evidence About Prostate Cancer Screening Among White and Black Male Veterans

Am J Mens Health. 2021 May-Jun;15(3):15579883211022110. doi: 10.1177/15579883211022110.


U.S. clinical guidelines recommend that prior to screening for prostate cancer with Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), men should have an informed discussion about the potential benefits and harms of screening. Prostate cancer disproportionately affects Black men. To understand how White and Black men reacted to a draft educational pamphlet about the benefits and harms of PSA screening, we conducted race-specific focus groups at a midwestern VA medical center in 2013 and 2015. White and Black men who had been previously screened reviewed the draft pamphlet using a semistructured focus group facilitator guide. Forty-four men, ages 55-81, participated in four White and two Black focus groups. Three universal themes were: low baseline familiarity with prostate cancer, surprise and resistance to the recommendations not to test routinely, and negative emotions in response to ambiguity. Discussions of benefits and harms of screening, as well as intentions for exercising personal agency in prevention and screening, diverged between White and Black focus groups. Discussion in White groups highlighted the potential benefits of screening, minimized the harms, and emphasized personal choice in screening decisions. Participants in Black groups devoted almost no discussion to benefits, considered harms significant, and emphasized personal and collective responsibility for preventing cancer through diet, exercise, and alternative medicine. Discussion in Black groups also included the role of racism and discrimination in healthcare and medical research. These findings contribute to our understanding of how men's varied perspectives and life experiences affect their responses to prostate cancer screening information.

Keywords: early detection of cancer; focus groups; health communication; prostatic neoplasms; veterans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Men
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Veterans*


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen