The prostate is a small gland found underneath the bladder in men and is part of the reproductive system. Some men develop prostate cancer, much later in life. If cancer stands on your prostate gland, it will likely grow slowly. In rare cases, the cancer cells may be more aggressive, grow quickly, and spread to other areas of your body. The earlier your doctor discovers and treats the tumor, the higher the chances are of finding curative treatment.
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According to the Urology Care Foundation, prostate cancer is the second most regular cause of all cancer-related deaths among American men. About 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime. Approximately 1 in 39 men will die from it. Most of these deaths happen among older men.
What causes prostate cancer?
Like all kinds of cancer, the exact cause of prostate cancer isn’t easy to determine. In many situations, multiple factors may be involved, including genetics and exposure to environmental toxins, like certain chemicals or radiation.
Ultimately, mutations in your DNA, or genetic material, result in the growth of cancerous cells. These mutations make cells in your prostate to start growing uncontrollably and abnormally. Abnormal or cancerous cells continue to grow and divide until a tumor starts. If you have an aggressive kind of prostate cancer, the cells may metastasize, or leave the original tumor site and spread to other parts of your body.
What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?
Some risk factors may affect your chances of having prostate cancer, including your:
- family history
- geographical location
In some situations, the mutations that lead to prostate cancer are inherited. If you have a family history of prostate cancer, you’re at increased risk of developing the disease yourself, because you may have inherited damaged DNA.
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 5-10 percent of prostate cancer cases are caused by inherited mutations. It’s been associated with inherited mutations in several different genes, including:
- RNASEL, formerly known as HPCI
- BRCA1 and BRCA2, which have also been linked to breast and ovarian cancer in women
- MSH2, MLH1, and other DNA mismatch repair genes
One of the greatest risk factors for prostate cancer is age. This disease strangely affects young men. The Prostate Cancer Foundation reports that only 1 in 10,000 men under the age of 40 in the United States will develop it. That number jumps to 1 in 38 for men between the ages of 40 and 59. It leaps to 1 in 14 men between the ages of 60 and 69. The majority of cases are diagnosed in men over 65.
|Age||Incidence of prostate cancer|
|<40||1 in 10,000 men|
|40-59||1 in 38 men|
|60-69||1 in 14 men|
Race and ethnicity
Although the reasons aren’t fully comprehended, race and ethnicity are risk factors for prostate cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, in the United States, Asian-American and Latino men have the lowest occurrences of prostate cancer. In contrast, African-American men are more likely to develop the disease than men of other races and ethnicities. They’re also more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage and have a poor outcome. They’re twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as white men.
A diet that’s rich in red meat and high-fat dairy products could also be a risk factor for prostate cancer, though there’s limited research. A study published in 2010 looked at 101 cases of prostate cancer and discovered a correlation between a diet high in meat and high-fat dairy products and prostate cancer, but stressed the need for additional studies.
A more recent study from 2017 looked at the diet of 525 men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer and found an association between high-fat milk consumption and the progression of the cancer. This study suggests that high-fat milk consumption may also play a role in the development of prostate cancer.
Men who eat diets high in meat and high-fat dairy products also seem to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. Experts don’t know if the high levels of animal fat or the low levels of fruits and vegetables add more to dietary risk factors. A such more research is required.
Where you live can also affect your risk of developing prostate cancer. While Asian men living in America have a lower incidence of the disease than those of other races, Asian men living in Asia are even less likely to develop it. According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is more common in North America, the Caribbean, northwestern Europe, and Australia than it is in Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America. Environmental and cultural factors may play a role
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The Prostate Cancer Foundation notes that in the United States, men living north of 40 degrees latitude are at a higher risk of dying from prostate cancer than those living farther south. This may be explained by a reduction in the levels of sunlight, and therefore vitamin D, which men in northern climates receive. There’s some evidence that vitamin D deficiency may heighten the risk for prostate cancer.
What are the risk factors for aggressive prostate cancer?
Aggressive prostate cancers may get slightly different than slower-growing types of the disease. Certain risk factors have been associated with the development of more aggressive types of the condition. For example, your risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer may be higher if you:
- are obese
- have a sedentary lifestyle
- consume high levels of calcium
What isn’t a risk factor?
Some things that were once considered risk factors for prostate cancer are now believed to have no link the disease.
- Your sexual activity doesn’t appear to have any effect on your chances of developing prostate cancer.
- Having a vasectomy doesn’t seem to increase your risk.
- There’s no known relationship between alcohol consumption and prostate cancer.
What is the outlook?
Although some cases of prostate cancer are aggressive, most are not. Most men diagnosed with this disease can expect a good outlook and many years of life ahead of them. The earlier your cancer is diagnosed, the better your outlook. Diagnosing and treating prostate cancer early can improve your chance of finding curative treatment. Even men who are diagnosed in later stages can benefit greatly from treatment. These benefits include reducing or eliminating signs, slowing further growth of the cancer, and prolonging life by many years.