Many Men Believe Air Spreads Cancer, Avoid Surgery as a Result

Associate Professor in the Department of Urology and the Office of Cancer Health Disparities Research, RPCI
Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 4:00pm

New research, conducted with my colleagues at Roswell Park and the University at Buffalo, shows that many men hold misconceptions about what causes prostate cancer to metastasize — and, as a result, may decide not to have surgery to treat their disease. 

Following up on earlier studies suggesting that some people believe, incorrectly, that exposure to air can cause cancer cells to multiply, we analyzed responses to a mail-in survey from 158 men with localized prostate cancer.

We found that 25 of these men, or 16.23% of participants, believe that air spreads cancer, and 50, or 32.7%, said they did not know whether air spreads cancer.

We also found that this opinion that air spreads cancer may influence treatment decision-making. Men who believed that air spreads cancer were 3.7 times less likely to opt for radical prostatectomy.

What this data tells us is that in counseling men regarding prostate cancer treatment options, it’s enormously important for care providers to understand the influence of a patient’s attitudes and beliefs regarding the treatment options and how these attitudes and beliefs may influence that person’s treatment decision-making.

Dr. Underwood was Principal Investigator on this research, which was funded by the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research and a University of Michigan SPORE Grant. Co-investigators were Heather Orom, PhD, of the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions and Michael Poch, MD, a Clinical Fellow in the Department of Urology at Roswell Park.