Second only to nonmelanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is one of the most common malignancies among American men. It occurs when cancer develops in the prostate—the small gland located just below the bladder that helps produce semen. The American Cancer Society estimates around one in every eight men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime, and one in every 41 men will die of this disease. Currently, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men, just behind lung cancer.
What Causes Prostate Cancer?
We know prostate cancer is dangerous, but what exactly causes this disease? Research shows cancer develops because of unusual changes in cellular DNA that trigger rapid cell division. As cells continue to divide uncontrollably and accumulate, cancerous tumors form. The precise causes of these changes are still unclear, although doctors have identified several risk factors that can increase a man’s odds of developing this cancer.
What Are the Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer?
A risk factor is a characteristic or behavior that may leave a person more vulnerable to a specific disease than the general population. There are several established risk factors for prostate cancer, including:
- Older age – Most men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are 50 or older—in fact, 60% of cases are diagnosed in men over age 65.
- A family history of prostate cancer – If a man has a close blood relative with prostate cancer, his own risk of being diagnosed may increase.
- Race – For unknown reasons, Black men are most likely to develop prostate cancer and experience aggressive or advanced disease at a younger age.
- Inherited gene changes – Men who have certain inherited gene changes (mutations)—including the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations—have a slightly increased risk of prostate cancer.
There is also some evidence to suggest that being obese, frequently consuming dairy products and exposure to certain chemicals in the firefighting industry can all increase a person’s risk of prostate cancer, although more research is needed to confirm these findings.
Lower Your Risk
Promote a Healthy Prostate
While you cannot control major risk factors, you can lower your risk through healthy lifestyle choices. Talk to your Urologist to learn more.SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT
How Can I Prevent Prostate Cancer?
It is impossible to prevent prostate cancer. However, while you cannot control major risk factors for this disease (such as age and race), there are several steps you can take to help lower your overall cancer risk and promote a healthy prostate. For instance, according to the American Cancer Society, smoking is linked to 20% of all cancers and another 18% of cancers are related to a combination of lifestyle factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, obesity and physical inactivity.
Keep these common-sense tips in mind to help lower your risk of prostate cancer and improve your overall health:
Lose Excess Weight
Some research indicates that prostate cancer tends to be more aggressive and difficult to treat in obese men. Furthermore, being overweight increases the risk of multiple other cancers and dangerous conditions like heart disease—the leading cause of death in American men.
Living a sedentary lifestyle increases prostate cancer risk by encouraging weight gain. Not only can exercising help you maintain a healthy weight, there’s also evidence to suggest regular exercise supports prostate health by lowering the risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and erectile dysfunction (ED).
While smoking doesn’t appear to raise the risk of low-grade (easily treatable) types of prostate cancer, it’s important to make one thing clear: Smoking is terrible for your health. Additionally, there’s ample research that indicates smoking makes prostate cancer more difficult to treat and increases the risk of dying from this disease.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
The benefits of a nutritious diet go far beyond losing weight and looking good in a swimsuit. Nourishing your body with vitamins, minerals, proteins and good fats can help lower your overall cancer risk and promote a healthy prostate. Most men’s health experts recommend the following dietary guidance:
- Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Stay away from sugary sodas and juices.
- Limit red meats and opt for leaner proteins like chicken, turkey, eggs and fish.
- Make sweets an occasional treat, not an everyday staple of your diet.
- Be mindful of portion sizes and stop eating when you feel full.
- Choose whole-grain breads and pastas over white options.
- Reduce salt intake by paying close attention to nutrition labels and limiting frozen and canned foods.
- Avoid highly processed foods like hot dogs, bologna and many pre-packaged snacks.
- Enjoy sources of healthy fats like nuts, avocados and olive oil and try to stay clear of foods that are high in saturated and trans-fats.
Consider Receiving Prostate Cancer Screenings
There is no universally accepted approach to prostate cancer screening, as some medical experts argue that the benefits may not outweigh the risks. This is because the two most common forms of prostate cancer screening—a digital rectal exam and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests—can sometimes lead to unnecessary worry and needless surgical biopsies.
With this said, it’s smart for men who have a high risk of prostate cancer to consider the pros and cons of screening and discuss them with their doctor. The American Cancer Society offers guidance on when these discussions should occur for men at different levels of risk:
- Age 40 for men at a notably high risk, including those with multiple first-degree relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65
- Age 45 for Black men and those with at least one first-degree relative with prostate cancer
- Age 50 for men without any clear risk factors (besides older age)
Consult With an Experienced Urologist
Florida Medical Clinic is home to Dr. Brent Sullivan—a fellowship-trained urologist who specializes in surgical prostate cancer treatment and assists patients at our convenient locations in North Tampa and Watergrass. To consult with Dr. Sullivan about prostate cancer screening, your individual risk, prevention strategies or treatment options, request an appointment on our website or call (813) 979-7733 today.
Meet Brent C. Sullivan, MD
Dr. Brent Sullivan is a native of Jamaica, art enthusiast and former collegiate soccer player. A recipient of the “Top Docs” award from Tampa Magazine, Dr. Sullivan excels in surgically treating prostate cancer through state-of-the-art robotic techniques. In his free time, he enjoys traveling.