Raising the bar for men’s health means getting to the point(s).
Today’s medical research findings make their way to the Internet at lightning speed. Picked up and interpreted (sometimes incorrectly or incompletely) by online media outlets or blogs, the results are splashed across headlines and broadcast to streaming services. The result can be a blinding fog of information, and regular people can be left wondering – “what are the most important things to know about this disease, illness, or medical condition?” Prostate cancer is among the medical topics that can have a dizzying array of information flung around about it at any given moment. In this two-part blog series, I offer the most important questions and answers for men (and their female loved ones) to know about this cancer type.
What are the significant prostate cancer risk factors?
The primary risk factor for developing prostate cancer is heredity. Men with a father or brother who has developed prostate cancer have two times higher chances of getting prostate cancer themselves. A man with a sister or mother who has developed breast cancer also has a higher chance of developing prostate cancer. As far as race and country of origin are concerned, African American men have a higher risk of being diagnosed with more aggressive types of prostate cancer. Additionally, prostate cancer rates are lower in Asian countries than in white men in the United States. The rate of prostate cancer in Asian men becomes equal to white men within one generation of migrating from Asian countries to the United States. This result indicates that there is an environmental or dietary component to prostate cancer. Among the lifestyle factors to consider for prostate cancer development, cigarette smoking slightly increases a man’s risk.
What are the best ways to prevent prostate cancer?
For those who want to modify their lifestyle risk factors for developing prostate cancer – don’t smoke. In simplest terms, cigarette smoke introduces toxic chemicals into the bloodstream, creating an inviting environment for many cancer types, prostate included. From a dietary perspective, most meals should already be big on plant-based whole foods and lean protein sources and small on processed fare. For an added prostate cancer-fighting boost, cooked tomatoes, soybeans, and green tea have been studied to provide protective benefits. Some dietary supplements may also offer prostate cancer protection benefits. These include Vitamin D, bioflavonoids, and Lycopene. Other supplements, such as Saw Palmetto, Sitosterol, and Pygeum, do not reduce the risk of prostate cancer, but can help men with enlarged prostate symptoms.
How does and when should a man get screened for prostate cancer?
Screening tests for prostate cancer are performed via a blood test called PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) and a physical examination called DRE (digital rectal exam). A primary doctor or a urologist can perform these tests. Abnormal results from PSA and DRE exams carry a high false-positive rate. Therefore, not all patients with abnormal PSA and DRE have prostate cancer. Most do not have prostate cancer. The ultimate way to diagnose prostate cancer is via a prostate biopsy. However, if a patient has an abnormal screening test, the doctor can do other tests before performing a prostate biopsy.
Men should undergo prostate screening beginning at age 50. Screening is recommended every 1-2 years and should continue to at least age 75. If a man has a first-degree relative (father or brother, mother, or sister) with a prostate or breast cancer history, he should be screened as early as age 40. Due to the incidence of more aggressive prostate cancer forms in African American men, they should begin undergoing prostate screening at age 45.
In the second part of this Q & A series, I will cover the prostate cancer symptoms and warning signs a man should be on the lookout for, what he should expect when visiting the doctor for prostate cancer concerns, the most effective treatments for prostate cancer, and today’s prostate cancer trends. As a urologist who has made prostate cancer treatment, and men’s health and wellness my life’s work, I consider it an honor and a responsibility to be an educated, experienced, and reliable voice on these topics. I hope the public will find these blogs to be both helpful and valuable tools to help them navigate the constant barrage of online information about prostate cancer.