There are trillions of cells in the human body, and any cell can become cancerous. Once a cancerous cell has formed, it could spread to other areas of the body. For more information about how cancer starts and spreads, visit What Is Cancer?
The rapid, uncontrollable growth of cells in the prostate gland causes Prostate Cancer.
The prostate, a gland found only in males, produces a part of the fluid found in semen. It is located beneath the bladder and in front of the rectum.
As a man ages, his prostate will vary in size. In a healthy young male, the prostate will be comparable in size to a walnut. In older men, the prostate might be much larger.
The seminal vesicles are located behind the prostate. These glands produce a majority of the fluid found in semen. The urethra, the tube through which semen and urine leave the body through the penis, travels through the middle of the prostate.
Though cancer might move rapidly, most types of prostate cancer grow and spread slowly. Autopsy studies have shown that some men who died due to unrelated issues had developed prostate cancer and never known.
Doctors assess a patient's risk of getting a disease by reviewing risk factors. With prostate cancer, there are risk factors that might suggest a patient is susceptible to the disease. In some cases, a lifestyle change can reduce the risk. Other risk factors like age or family history cannot be altered.
Risk factors are not a diagnosis, but they do suggest there is a higher probability than average to get a disease. In fact, individuals with several risk factors might never get cancer; however, a person with no risk factors might be diagnosed.
According to research, the following factors might increase a man's risk of prostate cancer:
Prostate cancer is rare in men younger than 40. As soon as a man turns 50, the probability of prostate cancer increases dramatically. Approximately 60 percent of prostate cancer diagnoses occur in men over the age of 65.
African-American and Caribbean men of African ancestry are more likely to develop prostate cancer than men of any other race or ethnicity. African-American men are twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men.
Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino men are less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than non-Hispanic white men. There is no evidence to prove why racial and ethnic differences increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer commonly affects men in North America, Northwestern Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean islands. Men in Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America are less likely to be affected by prostate cancer.
Research suggests improved screening in more developed countries plays a significant role in the reduced risk. Additionally, lifestyle differences in various parts of the world likely impact the risk. As an example, an Asian-American male has a lower risk of prostate cancer than the average white American male, but he is still at a higher risk than a similar male living in Asia.
Prostate cancer often runs in the family. This means there might be an inherited or genetic risk.
A man's risk of prostate cancer nearly doubles if his father had prostate cancer. The risk is even higher if the man's brother develops prostate cancer. The risk is exponentially higher if a man has several family members diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Inherited gene changes account for a small percentage of prostate cancer cases; however, there is evidence to suggest certain changes might increase an individual's risk. Examples of these might include:
- Mutations in the BRCA2 might increase a man's risk of prostate cancer.
- Men with diseases linked to inherited gene changes—such as Lynch syndrome—might have an increased risk of prostate cancer.
To learn more about inherited gene changes, visit What causes prostate cancer?
Factors with less apparent effect on prostate cancer risk
Men whose diets consists of large amounts of red meat and small amounts of fruits and vegetables might have a higher chance of developing prostate cancer.
Additionally, men with a calcium-rich diet might have a greater risk of developing prostate cancer. Though studies suggest too much calcium might increase your risk, it is important to note that calcium has additional health benefits and should not be completely removed from your diet.
There is no evidence to suggest prostate cancer is correlated with a man's weight. However, studies have shown that obese men have a greater risk of developing a more aggressive form of prostate cancer. Additionally, obese men might be at a higher risk to die from prostate cancer, but results of studies related to this vary.
There is not a clear connection between smoking and getting prostate cancer. Some studies suggest an individual with prostate cancer that smokes has an increased risk of dying from the disease, but these results have not been confirmed.
Firefighters might be at an increased risk of prostate cancer due to exposure to certain chemicals.
Recent studies also suggest exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical used during the Vietnam War, might result in an increased risk of prostate cancer. The Institute of Medicine states that there is “limited/suggestive evidence” of a link between Agent Orange exposure and prostate cancer. For more information on Agent Orange, visit Agent Orange and Cancer.
Inflammation of the prostate
Prostatitis, inflammation of the prostate gland, has been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer. In samples of cancerous prostate tissue, inflammation can often be seen. Understanding the possible correlation between inflammation and cancer is still an active area of research.
Sexually transmitted infections
Studies have been done to see if there is a connection between sexually transmitted infections and the risk of prostate cancer. Infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia might increase inflammation of the prostate. As of now, there is no clear connection between sexually transmitted infections and prostate cancer.
Recent studies suggest that vasectomies, a male fertility procedure, might increase the risk of prostate cancer. Research on the connection is still under way.
Sources: American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-risk-factors