Prostate Cancer

What Is It?

Second to skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men; approximately 300,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. The exact cause of prostate cancer is unknown. According to the American Cancer Society, an average American man has a one in seven chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.

Located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum, the prostate is a walnut sized gland that is part of the male reproductive system. The urethra, which is the tube that urine flows through, runs through the center of the prostate gland. The prostate gland produces prostatic fluid which, when mixed with sperm, produces semen.

Prostate cancer occurs when the prostate gland develops malignant cells. “Localized” prostate cancer is when the cancer remains inside the prostate. However, it is possible for the cancer to grow to surrounding tissue, or spread (metastasize) to the lymph nodes or bone. As with many forms of cancer, early detection provides the greatest chance of cure. For this reason, it is important for all men over the age of 50 (age 40 if you are African American or have a family history) to have regularly scheduled annual screening exams which include a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE).

Risk Factors

Although the exact cause of prostate cancer is unknown, research has shown that men with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop prostate cancer. Having a risk factor doesn’t mean that you will get prostate cancer, but rather you are at greater risk of developing the disease.

Age: The chance of acquiring prostate cancer increases with age. Men over the age of 45 have a higher risk than younger men.

Family History: Prostate cancer risk is approximately 2 to 3 times greater for men whose fathers or brothers have had the disease. Prostate cancer risk also appears to be slightly higher for men whose mothers or sisters have had breast cancer.

Race: Prostate cancer is more common in African American men than in Caucasians or Hispanics. It is less common in Asian and American Indian men.

Diet: Some studies suggest that men who eat a diet high in animal fat or red meat may be at increased risk for prostate cancer. Men who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may have a lower risk.

“What you need to know about Prostate Cancer”. National Institute of Health, 2005.
“Understanding Prostate Changes”. National Institute of Health, 2004.