As with any type of cancer, prostate cancer occurs when the cells in the prostate begin to multiply beyond normal capacity resulting in a tumor or other condition that leads to an unusual growth. One of the most common types of cancer in men, it affects about one out of every six during his lifetime. It's also the second leading cause of death from cancer among men after lung cancer.
What Causes Prostate Cancer
Researchers do not know exactly what causes prostate cancer, but they have found some risk factors and are trying to learn how these factors might cause prostate cells to become cancer cells.
On a basic level, prostate cancer is caused by changes in the DNA of a normal prostate cell. One of the latest understandings is that cancer can be caused by DNA mutations in which the specific genes that normally suppress tumors are turned off. This is what leads to the cells growing out of control.1
- Difficulty starting urination.
- A weak or interrupted flow of urine.
- Frequent urination, especially at night.
- Difficulty emptying the bladder.
- Pain or burning during urination.
- Blood in the urine or semen.
- Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away.
- Painful ejaculation.
Early Detection and Diagnosis
To effectively tackle the disease head on even if your symptoms aren't severe, one of our board-certified urology specialists will sit down with you to begin a series of screenings: blood tests and digital rectal examinations (DREs).
When deciding whether you should get tested, it will be useful to consider the following factors²:
- Age – As a man's age goes up, the risk of his developing prostate cancer goes up with it. Though rarely found in men under age 40, those 55 and up have a significantly higher likelihood of developing the disease.
- Ethnicity – Black and African American men are disproportionately affected by prostate cancer, as one in six will see complications in their lifetimes. They are also more likely to experience more aggressive tumors that grow and spread quickly and cause death. Hispanic/Latinx and Asian Americans are far less likely to develop symptoms of prostate cancer.
- Family History – Men with a family history of prostate cancer also face a higher risk of developing the disease. A man is 2 to 3 times more likely to get it if his father, brother, or son had it. This risk increases with the number of relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer. The age when a close relative was diagnosed is also an important factor.
- Smoking – As with many conditions, one who smokes has a higher risk for a more severe case of prostate cancer. It is also linked to a higher likelihood of death from the disease. It is worth noting; however, that the risk for prostate cancer goes down to that of a non-smoker the same age within 10 years of quitting.
- Geographic Area – Prostate cancer numbers and deaths vary around the world but are higher in North America and Northern Europe. Higher rates may be due to better or more screening procedures, heredity, poor diets, lack of exercise habits, and environmental exposures.
- Diet – Diet, and lifestyle may affect the risk of prostate cancer. It isn't clear exactly how. Your risk may be higher if you eat more calories, animal fats, refined sugar, and not enough fruits and vegetables. A lack of exercise is also linked to poor outcomes. Obesity (or being very overweight) is known to increase a man's risk of dying from prostate cancer.
Is Prostate Cancer Curable
The short answer is yes, but only if it is detected early on and given proper treatment. Treatments include:
- Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) - IMRT revolutionized the delivery of radiation therapy, and for many patients, it’s an ideal treatment. IMRT capitalizes on the basic concept of radiation therapy but takes it one step further, delivering the radiation to the specific areas at risk while significantly reducing the radiation dose to normal tissue.
- Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) - IGRT, another treatment to direct radiation precisely to the tumor, uses images taken immediately before treatment. This reduces the risk of tumors shifting days before the procedure and spares surrounding tissue from radiation.
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1. What Causes Prostate Cancer?
2. Prostate Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment - Urology Care Foundation (urologyhealth.org)
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