How to Reduce the Risk of Prostate Cancer
Written By: SERO Board-Certified Physicians
Prioritizing Prostate Cancer
In the United States, prostate cancer is a serious health issue for middle-aged men—and one that often receives less attention than it warrants.
Other types of cancer, such as lung cancer (which is more deadly) and skin cancer (which is more common) tend to overshadow prostate cancer. Everyone knows, for instance, that your chances of developing lung cancer plummet if you avoid smoking cigarettes, and that you’re less likely to develop skin cancer if you wear sunscreen and avoid spending long periods of time in the sun.
But what about the prostate? How can men take action to protect themselves and reduce risk of prostate cancer?
This is an important question, especially during middle-age, when men are most likely to develop prostate cancer. In fact, the likelihood is higher than you might think: roughly 14% of all American men, or one man in every seven, will develop prostate cancer at some point in their lifetimes.
Roughly 14% of all American men, or one man in every seven, will develop prostate cancer at some point in their lifetimes.
Before you can effectively reduce risk of prostate cancer, it’s helpful to understand where the disease starts and how it works.
What is the Prostate?
The prostate is an exocrine gland that makes up a part of the male reproductive system. Since only males have prostate glands, only males can develop prostate cancer.
The prostate is located near the urinary bladder, just in front of the rectum. It’s primary function is to produce and secrete a milky, alkaline fluid that makes up about 30% of seminal fluid. The fluid protects and nourishes sperm cells and gives sperm a more liquid consistency.
Over time, the prostate gland may grow or shrink. It becomes much larger during puberty, then remains the same size or grows slowly as men age. The prostate is about the size of a walnut in young men, but can grow much larger as men reach middle age.
The prostate gland surrounds the urethra, a tube through which urine and semen flow through the penis to exit the body.
What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer occurs when the cells in the prostate gland mutate, become malignant, and begin to form tumors. These malignant cells may stay in the prostate or move to other organs in the body.
While some prostate tumors grow rapidly, and may spread quickly to other organs, the majority grow very slowly. Many times, during autopsies, doctors find that men who died of natural causes were living with prostate cancer, but that the cancer never grew large or spread, and therefore did not impact the life of the man.
Risk Factors of Prostate Cancer
In determining a person’s likelihood of developing a certain type of cancer, doctors look at that person’s risk factors. Risk factors refer to any characteristic that a person may have that increases that person’s likelihood of developing a disease.
Risk factors include both environmental factors and genetic factors. An environmental factor, like exposure to cigarette smoking, can be changed to reduce risk. Genetic factors, such as one’s family history, are innate and cannot be changed to reduce risk.
60% of prostate cancer cases occur in men who are older than 65. While prostate cancer does occasionally occur in men who are younger than 40, such cases are very rare.
Based on research, scientists have concluded that prostate cancer runs in families. If a man’s brother or father has prostate cancer, he twice as likely to develop the disease himself.
Obese men may be slightly more likely to develop advanced prostate cancer or die from prostate cancer, according to some studies.
The consumption of red meat and high-fat dairy products have been linked to slightly higher risks of developing prostate cancer. Generally, this is also true of men who do not eat many fruits and vegetables.
Vasectomies are surgeries that are used to eliminate a man’s ability to impregnate a woman. Research is ongoing, but some studies suggest that undergoing a vasectomy may slightly increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.
How to Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer
So, given the statistics and data available, how does a man reduce risk of prostate cancer?
- Eat less fat.
- Eat more fish.
- Eat less red meat.
- Consume less dairy.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Derive fat from fruits and vegetables rather than meat and dairy.
Weight and Exercise
- Maintain a regular exercise routine.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes per day. Start small–even walking makes a difference!
- Lower calorie intake.
- Maintain a body mass index (BMI) of less than 30.
- Studies have shown that men who ejaculate more frequently—more than 20 times per month—are less likely to develop prostate cancer. In some cases, the risk of prostate cancer went down by more than 30%.