Over previous decades the most prevalent form of cancer among American men has been prostate cancer. It will continue to be a pressing health concern in the U.S. as according the the American Cancer Society estimates, 230,000 new diagnoses of this cancer and almost 30,000 deaths from it occurred in 2014 1. The society also estimates that 1 in every 7 men will contract prostate cancer in their life, most of them around the age of 66.
Knowing what prostate cancer is, how to detect it, what it comes from, factors that make you more susceptible to it and how to prevent it is a great way to ensure peace of mind as you age. The information listed below is a general overview of the cancer’s most important facets.
What is Prostate Cancer?
This type of cancer occurs in the prostate, a small gland found in the reproductive system of most male mammals. This gland plays an important role in reproduction by providing sperm with fluid to travel in.
There are several different types of prostate cancer, each of them develops a bit differently. Most of the time the cancer is slowly developed over time and doesn’t present a large risk of spreading. Other forms of prostate cancer on the other hand can have a much quicker and destructive spread. The cancer is exclusive to men, and happens most often when they are older.
The disease can be deadly, but not as much as other cancers. The majority of men learn to live with prostate cancer and don’t actually die from it.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
When a person initially develops prostate cancer it typically takes a while for any noticeable symptoms to emerge. Like most other forms of cancer, it is much easier to treat in the earlier stages when it is isolated, making early detection and knowledge critical for men. When it develops into later stages, the following symptoms can show:
- Urinary Concerns – Many of the signs linked to prostate cancer lie within the urinary system. The cancer may cause a difficulty with urination, less forceful urination, pain while urinating and blood in the urine 2.
- Semen – The semen has an unusual appearance, most likely resulting from the mixture of blood.
- Pain and Discomfort – Pain in the lower half of the body is common among people with prostate cancer. It most commonly happens in the lower back, legs, and hips. There may also be a discomfort in the pelvis when sitting down or a moderate pain in the bones in general.
- Erectile Dysfunction – Losing the ability to keep an erection that is sufficient for intercourse 3.
About two-thirds of men diagnosed with prostate cancer don’t actually show many symptoms. Of the third who did, at least one of the symptoms mentioned above was observed.
Causes of Prostate Cancer
It’s a bit unclear what the direct cause of prostate cancer is. Medical research has only been able to pinpoint the issue on a cellular level. Like most other cancers, prostate cancer develops when abnormal cells are produced in the reproductive gland. The mutated cells spread much quicker than the normal healthy cells and begin to take up more space. This build up of cells can lead to a tumor in the tissue, from which cells can separate and grow in other parts of the body.
These are the four most prominent risk factors for prostate cancer, though it is hard to tell exactly what is the most important because the cause of the disease is debatable 4.
- Age – Age is by far the biggest risk factor among men, which is why it’s recommended to start testing around the age of 40. It’s very rare for anyone under 50 to contract the disease, most commonly developing from age 60 to 70.
- Genetics – There are statistics that show that a family history of prostate cancer can increase the risk of the disease up to three times. If someone’s older family member was diagnosed before they turned 60, they have an even higher risk. As the number of relatives, particularly those with first degree lineage, increases, the odds of a faulty gene causing the cancer are higher.
- Race – Prostate cancer is more common in black males than among any other race. Asian men have the lowest risk and white men are in the middle.
- Obesity – Some studies document that higher body mass index can present a higher risk of prostate cancer. Doctors also note that it’s difficult to diagnose the cancer and treat in in obese men.
There is no direct evidence that a particular food can cause prostate cancer, but a healthy and diverse diet is generally recommended. Getting the right amount of fatty acids and essential vitamins and nutrients might help reduce your risk and keep you away from obesity. In this regard, you can read my article about the top 14 foods that protect against cancer development.
Several lifestyle factors have also been attributed to a possibly lower risk of prostate cancer. Men who ejaculate frequently face a lower risk, as do men who exercise regularly with a high intensity.
It’s worth noting that an increase in the size of a prostate does not directly indicate the presence of cancer. A lot of men experience a growth in the prostate due to a benign hyperplasia, a less dangerous and common medical condition among aging men.