What You Should Know About Prostate Cancer

The prostate is the gland below a man’s bladder that produces fluid for semen. Prostate cancer is common among older men. It is rare in men younger than 40. Risk factors for developing prostate cancer include being over 65 years of age, family history, being African-American, and some genetic changes.

Illustration of male reproductive and urinary anatomy

Symptoms of prostate cancer may include

  • Problems passing urine, such as pain, difficulty starting or stopping the stream, or dribbling
  • Low back pain
  • Pain with ejaculation

Your doctor will diagnose prostate cancer by feeling the prostate through the wall of the rectum or doing a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Other tests include ultrasound, x-rays, or a biopsy.

Treatment often depends on the stage of the cancer. How fast the cancer grows and how different it is from surrounding tissue helps determine the stage. Men with prostate cancer have many treatment options. The treatment that’s best for one man may not be best for another. The options include watchful waiting, surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy. You may have a combination of treatments.

The following risk factors may increase the risk of prostate cancer:

Age

Prostate cancer is rare in men younger than 50 years of age. The chance of developing prostate cancer increases as men get older.

Family history of prostate cancer

A man whose father, brother, or son has had prostate cancer has a higher-than-average risk of prostate cancer.

Race

Prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men than in white men. African-American men with prostate cancer are more likely to die from the disease than white men with prostate cancer.

Hormones

The prostate needs male hormones to work the way it should. The main male sex hormone is testosterone. Testosterone helps the body develop and maintain male sex characteristics.

Testosterone is changed into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by an enzyme in the body. DHT is important for normal prostate growth but can also cause the prostate to get bigger and may play a part in the development of prostatecancer.

Vitamin E

The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) found that vitamin E taken alone increased the risk of prostate cancer. The risk continued even after the men stopped taking vitamin E.

Folic acid

Folate is a kind of vitamin B that occurs naturally in some foods, such as green vegetables, beans and orange juice. Folic acid is a man-made form of folate that is found in vitamin supplements and fortified foods, such as whole-grain breads and cereals. A 10-year study showed that the risk of prostate cancer was increased in men who took 1 milligram (mg) supplements of folic acid. However, the risk of prostate cancer was lower in men who had enough folate in their diets.

Dairy and calcium

A diet high in dairy foods and calcium may cause a small increase in the risk of prostate cancer.

The following protective factors may decrease the risk of prostate cancer:

Folate

Folate is a kind of vitamin B that occurs naturally in some foods, such as green vegetables, beans and orange juice. Folic acid is a man-made form of folate that is found in vitamin supplements and fortified foods, such as whole-grain breads and cereals. A 10-year study showed that the risk of prostate cancer was lower in men who had enough folate in their diets. However, the risk of prostate cancer was increased in men who took 1 milligram (mg) supplements of folic acid.

Finasteride and Dutasteride

Finasteride and dutasteride are drugs used to lower the amount of male sex hormones made by the body. These drugs block the enzyme that changes testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Higher than normal levels of DHT may play a part in developing prostate cancer. Taking finasteride or dutasteride has been shown to lower the risk for prostate cancer, but it is not known if these drugs lower the risk of death from prostate cancer.

The Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT) studied whether the drug finasteride can prevent prostate cancer in healthy men 55 years of age and older. This prevention study showed there were fewer prostate cancers in the group of men that took finasteride compared with the group of men that did not. Also, the men who took finasteride who did have prostate cancer had more aggressive tumors. The number of deaths from prostate cancer was the same in both groups. Men who took finasteride reported more side effects compared with the group of men that did not, including erectile dysfunction, loss of desire for sex, and enlarged breasts.

The Reduction by Dutasteride of Prostate Cancer Events Trial (REDUCE) studied whether the drug dutasteride can prevent prostate cancer in men aged 50 to 75 years at higher risk for the disease. This prevention study showed there were fewer prostate cancers in the group of men who took dutasteride compared with the group of men that did not. The number of less aggressive prostate cancers was lower, but the number of more aggressive prostate cancers was not. Men who took dutasteride reported more side effects than men who did not, including erectile dysfunction, loss of desire for sex, less semen, and gynecomastia (enlarged breasts).

Retrieved from National Cancer Institute.

If you have any of the symptoms or risk factors, it’s important to speak with your physician immediately.  The best way to fight any cancer is through prevention, eating a healthy diet, and living a healthy life.    

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