Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among men with roughly 1 in 9 receiving a diagnosis in their lifetime. Thankfully, it can be treated with a high likelihood of survival if diagnosed early.
Risk Factors of Prostate Cancer
Researchers have found several factors that may increase a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer. While you can’t change some of these, it’s important to be aware if any of the following are present:
- Age - The chance of prostate cancer greatly increases in men age 50 and older.
- Race - Studies show that prostate cancer occurs more often in men of African descent than in men of other races. The cancer also appears to be more aggressive or advanced in Black men.
- Geographic location - Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and on the Caribbean islands.
- Family history - The chance of getting prostate cancer is twice as likely if there has been a family member, such as a father or brother, diagnosed with the disease. The risk is even higher for men with several relatives who have been diagnosed. Also, if you have a family history of genetic mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, your risk of prostate cancer may be higher.
- Lifestyle - Certain lifestyle habits may have a connection to men getting a more aggressive prostate cancer. Eating too much saturated fat (i.e. red meats and dairy) and not enough fruits and vegetables can put men at a slightly higher risk, as can being obese (very overweight). Smoking tobacco is another factor to consider. Although smoking has not been linked to getting prostate cancer, research has shown that it may contribute to the increased risk of dying from prostate cancer.
The presence of one or more risk factors does not mean that you will definitely develop prostate cancer. It’s a good idea, however, to have regular prostate cancer screenings, especially when risk factors are present. Currently, prostate screening is recommended for men with average risk at ages 40-45. For men with a higher than average risk, your doctor can help you determine when to begin prostate cancer screening given your personal history and risk factors. While screening tests cannot prevent prostate cancer, it is possible to achieve a better outcome after treatment, if detected early.
Causes of Prostate Cancer
The specific cause of prostate cancer is not yet known. But we know that mutations in a normal prostate cell’s DNA can cause the cell to grow uncontrollably. The cause of these mutations can be from an inherited gene in some cases. Studying both the DNA changes in prostate cells and the risk factors will continue to help cancer researchers learn more about how prostate cells become cancerous.
Preventing Prostate Cancer
There is no guaranteed way to prevent prostate cancer. There are, however, a few things you can do that may lower your risk of getting the disease, which include:
- Eating healthier and being more active - Regular exercise and a healthy diet may decrease the risk for prostate cancer. To learn more, you can read through the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.
- Taking medication - Certain drugs may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Some studies suggest that taking 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors (5-ARIs), including finasteride (Proscar) and dutasteride (Avodart), may reduce the overall risk of developing prostate cancer. These drugs are currently used to control non-cancerous growth of the prostate. Talk with your doctor if you would like to learn more about these drugs.
- Avoiding smoking - Smoking harms nearly every organ system in the body and diminishes a person’s overall health. Although quitting smoking may not prevent you from getting prostate cancer, it may increase your chances of surviving it if you are diagnosed.