Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men after skin cancer. Approximately 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer during their lifetime. Researchers don't know exactly what causes prostate cancer but are still learning how certain risk factors cause normal prostate cells to become cancer cells.
A risk factor is anything that increases your odds of getting a disease, and knowing your risks is essential for early detection and optimal treatment.
“There's not much you can do about some risk factors like age or family history," said Dr. Salim Cheriyan, a urologist in The Woodlands with Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group. "However, there are risk factors like smoking and not getting enough exercise that you have the power to change."
Factors to consider
The most common risk factor for prostate cancer is age. The older a man is, the greater the chance of getting prostate cancer. But race and family history also play a role in some men. For instance, African-American men are 61% more likely to develop prostate cancer than Asian, Caucasian, or Hispanic men. They’re more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer and get it at a younger age. They also tend to have more advanced diseases at the time of diagnosis, and this type of prostate cancer tends to be more severe than in other men. It’s not clear why race and ethnicity are risk factors for prostate cancer.
Men are twice as likely to have prostate cancer when a brother or father has had the disease. The risk is much higher for men with several affected family members, mainly if those relatives were young at the time of diagnosis. That’s because hereditary prostate cancers tend to develop earlier in life than non-inherited cases. Though prostate cancer runs in some families, a small percentage of prostate cancers are genetic and occur in families.
The signs or symptoms
Early prostate cancer usually has few or no warning signs at all. And conditions other than prostate cancer can cause most of these problems. In advanced prostate cancers, the symptoms are more noticeable. When signs are present, they are typically related to urinary problems. That’s because the prostate gland surrounds the urethra or the tube that carries semen and urine. Men affected by the disease may notice a burning sensation when urinating. They also may have trouble starting or stopping urine. That's especially true as the tumor grows. Others may feel like they can’t empty the bladder entirely or see blood in the urine or semen. It’s possible also to feel burning with ejaculation. Even if you have one or more of these symptoms, it doesn't mean a man has prostate cancer. Talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms and ask if a test for prostate cancer is right for you.
Should I get screened for prostate cancer?
Most prostate cancers are found early through screening. Two types of tests look for possible signs of prostate cancer. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures the level of PSA in the blood. The digital rectal examination (DRE) is when a doctor examines the rectum and feels the size of the prostate gland. It’s a simple procedure and takes place in a private room.
Though PSA is considered the current standard for prostate cancer detection, researchers are looking for new ways to detect cancer earlier and improve its treatment. In terms of screening guidelines, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening men between 55 and 69 but cautions that it should be an individual decision. After age 70, a discussion with your doctor about the need to continue screening should occur. The doctor will consider your age, potential lifespan, and overall health status to determine whether to recommend continued screening. The USPSTF recommendations apply to men who:
Are at average risk for prostate cancer,
Are at increased risk for prostate cancer
Do not have symptoms of prostate cancer
Have never been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Before making a decision, you should talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of tests and treatment.
The bottom line
Prostate cancer can be a serious disease, but most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. When found early, doctors can usually treat it successfully before it spreads. Experts warn against delay in diagnosis and treatment. Make an appointment with your primary care doctor at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group to discuss family history and other risk factors.
Who Is at Risk for Prostate Cancer? | CDC
Prostate Cancer: What Are The Risk Factors? (pcf.org)
Prostate Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Prostate cancer: MedlinePlus Genetics