Why Minorities Have a Higher Risk Factor for Some Urologic Conditions

January 11,2023 |
Urologist talking to her patient, using a clipboard.

Every individual is unique. We all have a combination of different hair color, eye color, skin color, personality traits, and more. However, when it comes to our internal organs and skeletons, we’re all pretty much the same. We have the same features, organs, and our bodies function in the same manner. However, individuals across different races and ethnicities aren’t proportionately affected by certain conditions. This is especially true in regard to urologic conditions. To try to better understand why this occurs, and how to offset your risk, here we’ll examine why minorities have a higher risk for some urologic conditions.


Which Types of Urologic Conditions Affect Minorities More Often?

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health reports, Black/African Americans and American Indians/Alaska Natives have lower life expectancies and higher death rates than Whites/Caucasians. They tend to be affected by diseases that usually don’t plague White Americans until later in life. Asian Americans are also at a higher risk for certain medical conditions and diseases.

In regard to urologic diseases, there are four primary areas that have noticeably higher rates amongst minority races and ethnicities—kidney disease, urinary tract infections, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer. The underlying cause of each condition depends on various factors. They tend to be a combination of genetic conditions and social or environmental factors.

Kidney Disease

Your kidneys are responsible for filtering your blood. They remove waste products and excess water in order to create optimal environments for your body’s circulatory system. Certain external factors can harm the kidneys and eventually lead to damage, which inhibits their ability to filter blood. This is classified as kidney disease.

Minorities are disproportionately affected by kidney disease. In fact, Black Americans are over three times as likely than White Americans to experience kidney disease and failure and Latinos are 1.3 times as likely. The rate of kidney disease amongst Asian Americans is also growing.

Again, the absolute underlying reason for this is unknown, but it may be due to the increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, infection, obesity, and heart disease that are found amongst these minorities. Having limited access to healthcare or preventative screening due to socioeconomic reasons can also increase risk.

It’s important to be aware of indicators of kidney disease, which is characterized by a drastic change in bathroom habits, loss of appetite, edema in the legs, or even the presence of a metallic taste in your mouth.

Urinary Tract Infections

Your urinary tract includes everything from your kidneys and bladder to your urethra. When bacteria enters the urethra, it can live within the urinary tract and cultivate. This can lead to an infection. When not properly addressed, the bacteria can travel up through the urethra, into the bladder, and even to the kidneys. Over time, this can lead to other serious complications.

Women are disproportionately affected by urinary tract infections. In fact, while only about 3% of men will experience a urinary tract infection during their lifetime, up to 50% of women will. American Indian women tend to have the highest prevalence of UTIs at about 24%. Black women tend to have a rate of UTIs at about 20%, Hispanic women have a prevalence of about 18%, while roughly 16.5% of white women will experience a UTI at some point.

The best way to reduce your risk of a UTI is to take the proper hygienic measures, especially when wiping front to back. Certain precautions should also be taken before and after sex. If you notice any symptoms of a UTI, it’s important to see your doctor to reduce the risk of it spreading to your bladder or kidneys. Urinary tract infections require antibiotics to eradicate the bacteria.

Prostate Cancer

The prostate is a small, walnut size organ that’s located behind the rectum in men. Its primary responsibility is to aid in the production of semen. From puberty, the prostate continues to grow until the end of a man’s life. This growth often leads to a condition called enlarged prostate, but this is not cancerous. It’s also known as benign prostatic hyperplasiaProstate cancer is defined by the mutation of growths within the prostate, which can create unusual growths or impurities in the gland. This can be diagnosed using a digital rectal exam or other types of tests.

Although prostate cancer has a high cure rate when caught early, Black men are nearly 75% more likely than any other race or ethnicity to be diagnosed. They’re also more than twice as likely to die. Prostate cancer remains to be the most common cancer amongst Hispanic men, while Asian Americans have the lowest prevalence.

This disparity may have something to do with genetics, but it could also be attributed to lifestyle habits, pollutants, and a lack of adequate screening. As a male, it’s important to see your urologist regularly after the age of 40 to undergo a digital rectal exam and other preventative screening tests. If you experience any signs of prostate cancer, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Testicular Cancer

The testes are integral parts of the male reproductive system. They’re responsible for creating the male hormones and making sperm. Testicular cancer occurs when the cells within the testes mutate and begin to grow out of control. There are several different types of testicular cancer that are classified based on the type of cells that mutate. Understanding this is important as it affects the treatment plan.

Interestingly enough, White men are actually four to five times more likely to develop testicular cancer than Black men and about three times more likely than Asian-American men. However, when looking at the five-year survival rate for Black men, it’s at about 87.7%, Asian-American is about 91%, and White Americans is about 95.3%. When testicular cancer is diagnosed during later stages, this disparity grows.

The reason behind these differences isn’t entirely known, but it’s thought to be associated with delayed detection. However, many researchers believe that lifestyle habits, genetics, and several different environmental factors may also play a role. To offset your risk as a minority, it’s important to undergo regular screenings and see your doctor as soon as possible at the first sign of testicular cancer.


How to Reduce Your Risk of Urologic Conditions

Although rates of certain urologic conditions tend to be higher amongst minority groups, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll experience one. There are plenty of ways to take a proactive approach to your urologic health and reduce the risk of the development of certain conditions. Additionally, seeing your urologist regularly for preventative screenings and checkups can help ensure early detection, which increases the rate of survival amongst many cancers. To help you reduce your risk, regardless of your race or ethnicity, consider some of the following tips.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

One of the best ways to reduce your risk of any underlying conditions, including urologic ones, is to maintain a generally healthy lifestyle. Try to get an adequate amount of exercise, eat a diet that’s rich in vitamins and minerals, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night. If you smoke, quit, as it can increase your risk for several conditions including cancer.

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can also increase your risk of several urologic conditions, especially kidney disease and urinary tract infections. Try to get enough water and aim for your urine to be a translucent yellowish color.

Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles

Including pelvic floor exercises in your daily regimen can also help strengthen the muscles that support your urinary tract system. These can include things like Kegels or variations of other exercises. If you’re not sure how to properly target these muscles, talk to your doctor about biofeedback.

See Your Urologist Regularly

Men should see their urologist every year starting at the age of 40. If you have a family history of prostate cancer, you may want to begin earlier. Talk to your doctor for recommendations based on your race, ethnicity, age, and family history.

Don’t Ignore Signs of an Issue

If you have unusual symptoms or experience any localized pain, see your doctor as soon as possible. Ignoring signs of an issue won’t make them go away, so it’s best to get treatment early to avoid further complications.

There are plenty of ways to stay proactive about your health and reduce your risk of urologic conditions, regardless of your race or ethnicity. To help support a healthy urologic system, Byram Healthcare offers a wide range of urologic products to alleviate symptoms and take control of your life. Browse our product catalog today and enjoy fast, discreet delivery directly to your doorstep.

Byram Healthcare is a member of the National Association for Continence’s Trusted Partners Program, whose mission is to provide quality continence care through education, collaboration and advocacy. We continue to build partnerships in the clinical community to ensure we focus on what’s best for the patient.