What You Need to Know About Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men in the United States. In 2013, there were an estimated 238,590 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in the United States with a total of 29,720 deaths related to prostate cancer. Since the early 1990’s, the incidence rate for prostate cancer has been declining along with a drop in the mortality rate from prostate cancer. The decline is due in part to the introduction of PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) testing beginning in the late 1980s.

Every man is at risk for prostate cancer, and the risk increases with age. The prostate gland is located in the male pelvis and functions to provide nutrients in ejaculate fluid so that sperm may survive for fertilization. The size of the prostate varies with advancing age. In younger men, the prostate is about the size of a walnut and can grow as large as a grapefruit in older men. After the reproductive years have passed, the prostate gland becomes a vestigial organ with no real purpose. However, the prostate gland is hard to remove with surgery without multiple complications due to its location in the pelvis below the bladder, in front of the rectum, with the urethral tube running through the center of the prostate.

Men with close family members who have had prostate cancer are more likely to get prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean and is less common in Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America. African-American men in the United States have a higher incidence rate of prostate cancer than of any other racial/ethnic groups with a mortality rate at least twice that of any other ethnic/racial groups.

Early prostate cancer often causes no symptoms. It may be found with screening tests such as PSA blood test, digital rectal examination, transrectal ultrasound of prostate, and possibly prostate needle biopsy. In contrast, possible symptoms of advanced prostate cancer include trouble having or keeping an erection; blood in the urine or semen; pain in the spine, hips, ribs, or other bones; weakness or numbness in the legs or feet; or loss of bladder or bowel control.

Treatment for prostate cancer varies depending upon the age and general health of the patient and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

There are many dietary factors that are associated with the incidence of prostate cancer including consumption of red meat, high-fat dairy products, consumption of saturated fats, and possibly Vitamin E intake. Obesity is a strong independent risk factor for developing a certain more aggressive form of prostate cancer which has a higher recurrence rate after surgery or radiation therapy.

Protective activities to prevent prostate cancer include reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, remaining physically active, and eating more fruits and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. Lycopene, selenium, Vitamin D, soy, green tea, and possibly zinc may also reduce the occurrence of prostate cancer. Your doctor can help determine specific needs for PSA tests and can provide more information about individual risk factors for prostate cancer.

Dr. Orrenzo B. Snyder is board-certified urologist who practices at Granger Medical Clinic in West Valley City, Utah. Appointments can be made by calling 801.965.3535. 


Originally printed in Granger Medical Clinic’s magazine, Spring 2014.