TUESDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Differences in the genetic makeup of prostate cells could explain why black men in the United States are more likely to get prostate cancer and die from it than white men, a new study suggests.

"There are a lot of socioeconomic and environmental factors that create differences in levels of prostate cancer in these two groups," study co-author Bi-Dar Wang, assistant research professor of pharmacology and physiology at the George Washington University Medical Center, said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research. "We've found that genetic elements play a role in these disparities as well."

The researchers analyzed samples of prostate tissue from black and white men. They found that the two races had "population specific" messenger RNA (mRNA) and microRNA. The differences appear to affect how prostate cancer tumors form or stop forming.

"It is still too early to conclude any novel treatment strategy based on our results," Wang said. "However, the genomic analyses of prostate cancers have revealed that differential mRNA and microRNA expression and the associated gene network rewriting may be critical in prostate cancer health disparities."

Wang said the findings will advance current knowledge on the mechanisms responsible for racial differences in prostate cancer and may help improve detection and treatment strategies for African American men.

The study was scheduled to be released Tuesday at the American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Washington D.C. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

For more on prostate cancer, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.