What causes prostate cancer? This is one of the most common questions searched online for the most common cancer found in men. In the US, 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer and it is the second leading cause of cancer death among men behind lung cancer. Prostate cancer is as complex as any other cancer and thus the exact cause is not completely understood. However, there is much to consider in terms of risk factors that have been common of those diagnosed. We’ll also look at possible warning signs to consider for earlier detection.
The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland about 3 centimeters long and 20 grams in weight and is part of the male reproductive system. It is situated in the pelvis at the base of the penis and is below the bladder right in front of the rectum. A healthy prostate produces about a third of the seminal fluid nourishing sperm cells and providing lubrication to the urethra to help deliver semen.
On a cellular level, prostate cancer results from change in the DNA or perhaps chemicals that affects a gene in a normal prostate cell. Genes control how a cell functions including growing, dividing, and ultimately dying. Genes that help cells grow and divide in cancer are called oncogenes. Genes that repair, control cell growth, or cause cells to die are called tumor suppressor genes. In a healthy prostate, oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes function normally. DNA changes that cause abnormal shut off of the suppressor genes or turning on of oncogenes can lead to cells growing out of control consequently leading to prostate cancer. Whether these mutations are begun genetically or as a result of a person’s environment, understanding common risks can help with early detection and prevention.
Common risk factors
No one or even several risk factors can point definitively to causing cancer just like no one or several preventative measures can point to avoidance of cancer. However, there are common themes that arise that increase the likelihood for prostate cancer.
The likelihood of getting prostate cancer begins increasing with age starting around 50. The average age of those that are diagnosed is 66 and by age 80, more than 80% of men will have developed prostate cancer according to the NIH National Library of medicine Nov 2023. According to the 2020 census, the rate of getting prostate cancer increases to 5 to 6 times higher at age 65 than 50.
While cancer affects people of all ethnicities, Black Non-Hispanic group has the highest rate per 100,000 of all ethnicities followed by White Non-Hispanic, Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian respectively. When compared with all other ethnicities, Black Non-Hispanic prostate cancer rate is 2X the general population.
According to the American Cancer Society, there is not a strong link to being obese to an increased risk of getting prostate cancer. Instead, there have been studies that suggest that when diagnosed with prostate cancer, there is a higher risk of getting a more aggressive growing one because of obesity.
Early Warning Signs
Although risk factors cannot completely explain the potential causes for prostate cancer, being aware of early indications can help lead to earlier detections. Here are some potential signals:
1. Unexplained Pain
· In the penis, testicles, or perineum which is the area between the testicles and rectum.
· While urinating or ejaculating.
· In the lower back, hip, or chest.
· Erectile dysfunction.
2. Problem urinating
· Challenging with starting to pee.
· Needing to frequently get up during the night to pee.
· Limiting of pee stream.
· Frequent urges to pee.
· Blood in urine or semen.
Much like there is no one cause that can be linked to prostate cancer, there is not one preventative measure to reduce the risk. However, there are some commonsense things to help keep the prostate healthy.
· Screen. By 50, men should consider getting their prostate checked.
· Diet. Eating vegetables, fruits, and lean protein.
· Exercising. Being physically active can reduce the risk of getting an enlarged prostate.
· Smoking. Avoiding tobacco can reduce the risk of developing cancer.
At Dayspring Cancer Clinic, prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers we help patients with leading edge therapies. Find out more about our plans by learning more from our patient care coordinator.