August 23, 2021
Prostate Cancer Prevention Across the Lifespan
There are many things a man can do throughout his life to keep prostate cancer risks in check.
I am a urologist and urologic surgeon who has cared for thousands of patients with prostate cancer throughout my career. Some of my patients came to me at the first signs of a problem with their prostate health; others waited – unfortunately, years in some cases. The brutal but straightforward truth about most cancers is this – the earlier they’re caught, the more likely they are to be cured. Conversely, and specifically in the case of prostate cancer, the longer a man waits, the fewer his options are in treating and eliminating cancer. There is good news here, we aren’t helpless against the “C-word.” There is plenty men can do throughout their lives to lower their prostate cancer risks significantly.
In his 20s, a man often feels invincible, and statistically speaking, he can seem to be. But there are plenty of lifestyle factors that can tip his health scales in the wrong direction, setting him up for increased prostate cancer risk down the road. At this age, maintaining normal body weight and ensuring exercise and proper nutrition is a priority is prudent. Making regular health screenings (physicals and dental screenings, for example) a habit in your 20s is also a good practice. It sets you up to be more easily prepared for doctor’s appointments when they are essential down the road.
In their 30s, men should prioritize screenings related to cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes. While these concerns may be seemingly unrelated to prostate cancer risk, they can be, especially as men age. Studies suggest that a pre-existing diabetes diagnosis can put a man at a higher risk of advanced prostate cancer, as well as a nearly 30% increase in death from prostate cancer. Additionally, high cholesterol numbers may increase a man’s risk of developing more aggressive types of prostate cancer. A focus on total wellness now can help reduce the risk of many types of cancer when you get older, prostate cancer included.
Beginning in their 40’s, men should consider adding an annual prostate exam to their calendared health checks. Especially for those with an increased risk of developing prostate cancer (African American men and men with a first-degree relative who has had prostate cancer, for example), earlier screening for prostate cancer can be prudent. When screenings such as those for prostate cancer are begun earlier in a man’s life, they can help create a crucial prostate wellness “baseline.” Wellness baselines can help patients and their providers track health metrics across the lifespan so that a healthcare provider can identify dips or spikes in health measures as soon as possible.
In the United States, the average age of prostate cancer diagnosis is 69. After that year, the chances that a man will develop prostate cancer increase significantly. So, around the age of 50, men should be receiving a regular, annual physical and screening for prostate cancer. Putting in the work of getting comfortable with and committed to regular health checkups puts a man in a much better position to identify problems early when he’s older.
Beyond a commitment to health screenings, there are other things men can do to reduce their prostate cancer risk. A man cannot control his race, family history, or geographical location; this is true. But he can manage the quality of foods he eats, the regular exercise he gets, and develop healthy ways to cope with life stressors. These are all crucial lifestyle elements that certainly don’t receive enough credit for health-risk reduction, including prostate cancer. Beyond the above stated controls, identifying and selecting a trusted health care provider is absolutely necessary. Men are more likely to make health screenings a priority when they are comfortable and have a good relationship with a doctor they trust. After all, if early prevention and detection were in a horse race, they’d be the favored winners over ignorance and procrastination every single time.