Race matters when it comes to prostate cancer

DURHAM, N.C. – Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. That's why early detection is key. 

Duke researchers say race plays an important role when it comes to risk and response to prostate cancer treatment. 

Known as Hugh "Muddy Waters" Hargett on the football field in college, Hargett had trouble tackling the diagnosis of prostate cancer. 

"I couldn't eat. I probably lost about 45 or 50 pounds," Hargett said.

"One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime," said Dr. Daniel George, professor of medicine & Surgery at Duke Cancer Institute.

George said even though there's been a decrease in prostate cancer cases, too many lives are still being lost.

"Death from prostate cancer is at an all-time high -- 29,000 deaths a year in the United States," George said.

African Americans are at a greater risk for developing the disease. 

"And they are at a two and a half times greater risk of dying from prostate cancer. Should we be treating these patients differently?" George asked.

Researchers at Duke Cancer Institute studied African-American and Caucasian patients by treating both groups with a drug called Abiraterone. 

"We saw a better response in the African American population then the Caucasian population," George said.

Researchers want to understand genetically why African American patients do better. 

"Can we use that information to treat them even earlier and maybe cure some of these guys?" George asked.

Hargett has been on the chemotherapy drug for two years and found out his cancer is in complete remission. 

"It's a really fantastic response, and I'm very happy for you. Thank the Lord!" George said.

Hargett believes it is possible to beat cancer, but he knows there are no guarantees. 

"I'd never thought I'd be here today," he said. 

George said it's not the skin color that's important. It's the genes associated with skin color that can affect treatment response. 

Hargett will continue to stay on the chemotherapy even though the study has concluded.