Know Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

All men should be familiar with the risk factors for the most common cancer among men in the United States after non-melanoma skin cancer – prostate cancer.  Prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer among men of all races throughout the world. 

This potentially deadly cancer affects the prostate gland, an exocrine gland of the male reproductive system sitting at the base of the bladder and in front of the rectum.  The size of a walnut, the function of the prostate gland is to produce the milky fluid that forms part of the semen.  This fluid protects and nourishes the sperm that travels in this fluid when they leave the body after a man ejaculates.

It has been predicted by the end of 2016, 180,890 men will have been diagnosed with prostate cancer with an estimation of 26,120 men who will succumb to the disease.  When a man knows the risk factors for prostate cancer, he has a far better chance of knowing not only what to look for but also to be proactive on things he can change to reduce his risk of developing this disease.

Even though many of the risk factors a man will not be able to change, he can consult with his urologist on when to begin PSA testing and what positive lifestyle changes he can make to reduce his risk of developing prostate cancer as much as possible.  Working closely with his doctor, a man can be evaluated on a periodic basis to watch for signs of prostate cancer to catch it in an early stage if a man does develop it. 

Here are the risk factors he needs to know:

·        Age – After the age of 50, the rate of prostate cancer increases. About 6 out of 10 new cases are found in men who are 65 or older. 

·        Family history – The risk for prostate cancer doubles if a man’s father or brother had prostate cancer.  The risk also depends on the age at which a close relative was diagnosed – the younger a man’s relatives were diagnosed, the greater his chance of prostate cancer. 

·        Genetic factors – Men who carry the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2, the same genes that cause breast and ovarian cancer in women, are believed to be at a higher risk for prostate cancer.

Men with a condition called Lynch syndrome, also caused by inherited gene changes, have an increased risk for prostate cancer.

·        Ethnicity – Prostate cancer occurs more frequently in African-American men and in Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races.  African-American men also have twice the rate of dying from prostate cancer white men.  Non-Hispanic white men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than Asian-American or Hispanic/Latino men.

·        Geography – Prostate cancer is found more commonly in men living in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and on Caribbean islands.  It is less commonly found in Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America.

·        Food choices – It appears that diet does have an influence on prostate cancer development.  Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products appear to have a slightly higher risk of getting prostate cancer.  It is advised that a man follow a diet rich in fruits and vegetables containing valuable cancer-fighting compounds along with lean meat, nuts, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods.

·        Obesity – Carrying excess weight may increase a man’s risk for getting a more aggressive form of prostate cancer.  Some studies have shown not only is a man possibly at a greater risk for a more advanced prostate cancer but also of dying from it.

·        Smoking – Some research has shown a link between smoking and a possible small increased risk of dying from prostate cancer.

·        Chemical exposure – There have been some studies suggesting a possible link between prostate cancer and exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical used widely during the Vietnam war. 

·        Prostatitis – Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate which may be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.  Inflammation is often seen in samples of prostate tissue that also contain cancer but the link is not completely understood.