Despite ongoing debate about the benefits of PSA testing for men at risk for prostate cancer, and recent research on the best course of treatment for those who have been diagnosed, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution Thursday acknowledging that awareness and prevention of the disease is as critical as it's ever been for African American men.

According to The Hill, the Senate resolution, which was introduced by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), urges federal agencies to address what they're now calling an "epidemic" by supporting education, awareness outreach and research specifically focused on how prostate cancer affects black men.

"Prostate cancer is an epidemic -- it kills every 16 minutes," Kerry said in a press release. "This disease killed my dad, but I was lucky to beat it ten years ago, I introduced this resolution in the Senate to bring attention to this silent killer, how it disproportionately affects African Americans, and the need for additional federal investment in prostate cancer research, education, and awareness," he said.

Each year, some 504 in 100,000 African American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, the National Cancer Institute reports. And while the disease is curable when detected early, it remains the second most lethal cancer in men, killing over 30,000 men each year, a disproportionate number of which are black.

Research efforts continue to explore why, including recent studies that point to higher rates of vitamin D deficiency among blacks, genetic differences compared to whites and even ancestry. For example, in 2009, researchers found a higher prevalence of prostate cancer in men of West African descent.

In addition to Kerry, other sponsors of the Senate measure -- which passed by unanimous consent -- are also prostate cancer survivors, The Hill reports.

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