Did you know September is National Prostate Health Month? In this article, we’ll focus on all things prostate health in order to raise awareness about prostate cancer.
In honor of #prostatecancerprevention, Dr. Berry Pierre shares on Instagram one sobering statistic: “One in every six men will get prostate cancer during his lifetime.” It’s important to keep in mind that because half of the population has no prostate, not everyone is at risk for prostate cancer! Still, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men so it’s important to be aware of prostate health and how to prevent prostate cancer.
Read on to learn more about the prostate, including where it is located, who is at risk for developing prostate cancer, whether your lifestyle can lead to prostate cancer, and tips for preventing prostate cancer.
What exactly is a prostate?
Many people have heard of prostate cancer, but what exactly is a prostate?
According to the CDC, “The prostate is a part of the male reproductive system, which includes the penis, prostate, seminal vesicles, and testicles. The prostate is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is about the size of a walnut and surrounds the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder). It produces fluid that makes up a part of semen.”
This small gland can also develop cancer, which the CDC describes as “a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control.” The health authority goes on to explain that when cancer starts in the prostate, it is called prostate cancer. Interestly enough, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men (not including skin cancer).
The CDC continues, “As a man ages, the prostate tends to increase in size. This can cause the urethra to narrow and decrease urine flow. This is called benign prostatic hyperplasia, and it is not the same as prostate cancer. Men may also have other prostate changes that are not cancer.”
In other words, it is normal for changes to occur in the prostate as men age. What is not normal, however, is for cancer to develop in the prostate. This can be very dangerous, even though it is a common type of cancer.
Do women have a prostate?
There is sometimes confusion around whether or not females have a prostate. The simple answer is no, females do not have a prostate gland like males do.
As Medical News Today explains it, “The prostate is not a part of the female anatomy. There is a series of glands and ducts at the front of the vagina called the Skene’s glands, and these are sometimes called the ‘female prostate.’” While the Skene’s glands can sometimes be confused for a prostate, they are not the same thing, as females do not have a prostate.
However, it is still possible to get cancer in these glands, though it is very rare. This is sometimes called “female prostate cancer” even though that is not technically accurate. Medical News Today explains, “These glands have some of the same properties as the male prostate gland, which is located between the bladder and penis. For example, both contain prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and PSA phosphatase, two enzymes that can be markers of health.”
Still, these glands are not really considered a prostate, even though they are similar to the male prostate. Maybe this is another reason why men tend to live shorter lives than women.
The stats: Who is at risk for prostate cancer?
Are you wondering about the stats around who gets prostate cancer? As with all cancers, certain demographics and age groups have a higher chance of developing prostate cancer.
According to Healthline, “The risk of developing prostate cancer progressively increases with age. About 60 percent of all prostate cancers in the United States are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older. It is rare for men to develop prostate cancer before age 40.”
In other words, prostate cancer is most common in older men. But according to the CDC, “All men are at risk for prostate cancer. Out of every 100 American men, about 13 will get prostate cancer during their lifetime, and about 2 to 3 men will die from prostate cancer.”
The CDC also shares that the most common risk factor for prostate cancer is age, so the older a man gets, the greater his chance of getting prostate cancer.
However, the CDC points out that some men are at increased risk, including those who are African-American or who have a family history of prostate cancer. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, “Scientists don’t yet know why, but men of African descent are over 75% more likely to develop prostate cancer compared with white men, and 2.2 times more likely to die from the disease.” Other research suggests that people of Scandinavian descent are also at higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
Most people are at increased risk of cancer if they have cancer in their family, but genetic risk factors are especially prominent in prostate cancer. If you are in any of these age groups or demographics, you should talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors for prostate cancer and make sure to stay aware of any changes in your health.
Can your lifestyle lead to prostate cancer?
There’s no way to completely avoid the potential to develop prostate cancer, but evidence suggests that diet plays a key role, so eating healthy can significantly lower your risk and help protect you against prostate cancer. For tips on eating healthy, check out the USDA’s updated dietary guidelines.
In other words, your lifestyle may be a major factor in developing or preventing prostate cancer. An unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle puts you at much greater risk--not just for prostate cancer but for a variety of other cancers and diseases.
To keep your prostate healthy, live an active lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, plenty of vitamin D, exercise, and health screenings for early detection.
Did you know that smoking is also linked to prostate cancer? Healthline reports: “Prostate cancer patients who smoke are more likely to have a recurrence of the disease. Smokers also have a higher risk of dying from prostate cancer. ... When compared with current smokers, prostate cancer patients who quit smoking for more than 10 years had the same mortality risk as those who never smoked.”
It’s not too late to quit! Even if you’ve smoked a long time, quitting is better than continuing to smoke and lowers your risk of prostate cancer and many other cancers and diseases.
Want to live a healthy lifestyle and work to prevent prostate cancer through your choices? Read on for tips from a doctor for making choices that will help prevent prostate cancer.
Tips for preventing prostate cancer
So, can you prevent prostate cancer? Of course there is no guarantee that you can avoid the disease, but you can definitely take steps in the right direction to help prevent it.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman is a board-certified family physician specializing in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. Below, he provides his top tips for preventing prostate cancer (note that these have been condensed for clarity):
1. “Eat your G-BOMBS. G-BOMBS (greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries and seeds) have powerful anti-cancer effects.
a. Cruciferous vegetables (greens like broccoli, kale, bok choy, arugula, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, plus cauliflower, radish and more) contain phytochemicals that stimulate the body to detoxify carcinogens, and higher cruciferous vegetable intake is associated with lower prostate cancer risk.
b. Men who consumed three or more half-cup servings of cruciferous vegetables per week were 41 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer.
2. Reduce consumption of meat, eggs and dairy. It is widely recognized that a high consumption of animal protein has been linked to a greater risk of prostate cancer.
a. Greater intake of choline (found in meat, dairy and eggs), which has been found to increase prostate cancer risk.
b. Eggs are the richest source of choline, and a large study of men found that those who ate 2.5 or more eggs per week had an 81% increase in risk of lethal prostate cancer compared to those who ate less than half an egg per week.
c. There is substantial evidence indicating that men who avoid dairy products are at a lower risk for prostate cancer.
3. Eat lots of tomatoes, especially cooked. A review of several studies revealed that those who consumed the most tomato-based foods reduced their total risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent and their risk of advanced prostate cancer by 50 percent.
a. [The lycopene in cooked tomatoes is more bioavailable than in raw tomatoes.]
4. Eat plenty of yellow and orange vegetables. In studies, the greater the consumption of carotenoid-rich yellow and orange vegetables, including carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, winter squash and corn, the lower the number of people with prostate cancer.
5. Confirm adequate vitamin D levels with a blood test.
a. Insufficient vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of several cancers, including prostate cancer.
6. Do not rely on PSA screening as a method of ‘early detection’ to prevent prostate cancer.
7. Avoid supplemental folic acid.
8. Avoid fried foods.
a. Potential dietary carcinogens form in foods when high heat cooking methods, such as frying or grilling, are used.
b. One study evaluated frequent (once a week or more) consumption of certain fried foods in relation to prostate cancer risk; French fries, fried chicken, fried fish and doughnuts were associated with increased risk.
9. Exercise at least 3 hours a week.
a. Exercise, particularly endurance-type exercise such as walking, running, cycling and swimming, are effective forms of disease protection.
b. In one study, men who reported vigorous activity for at least three hours per week had a 61% lower risk of death from prostate cancer, suggesting that not only does exercise help to prevent prostate cancer, but it may also slow its progression.
10. Supplement with a conservative amount of zinc.
a. Zinc has been shown in scientific studies to suppress tumor growth and induce prostate cancer cell death.
b. There is evidence that adequate levels of zinc are protective, while deficiency and excess may promote prostate cancer.”
According to this physician, some of the most effective steps you can take to prevent prostate cancer are to live a healthy lifestyle--one in which you are active, eating healthy foods and plenty of vegetables, and getting adequate nutrients such as zinc and vitamin D.
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