The key to prostate cancer prevention is early screening. Thousands of prostate cancer deaths could be avoided with early detection. Catching the disease at an early stage before it has the chance to grow or spread across the body makes treatment far more successful.
As a urologist, I know it’s easy for me to say “get checked early!”
I know that in reality lots of us will put off getting checked because the thought of finding out scares us.
Let’s talk about the steps that you can take to prevent prostate cancer by discussing prostate cancer risk factors that you can and can’t control.
- Prostate cancer risk factors you can control
- Prostate cancer risk factors you can’t control
- Steps to lowering your risk of prostate cancer
When it comes to prostate cancer prevention, there are things that we can control and things that we cannot control.
There is no sure way of preventing prostate cancer, however, there are certain things that you can do to lower your risk.
Prostate cancer risk factors you can control
Let’s start with prostate cancer risk factors that you can control.
Prostate cancer risk factors that you can control include:
- Getting tested early
- Eating habits
Getting tested early
The 5-year survival rate for most men with local or regional prostate cancer is nearly 100%. Early screening is absolutely necessary in increasing positive outcomes for patients. There has been debate among health care workers about whether the benefits of prostate cancer prevention programme outweighs the potential risk of overdiagnosis and overtreatment.
Emerging evidence suggests that your eating habits can impact your risk of developing prostate cancer. Traditionally what you eat has been connected to conditions like heart disease, diabetes and obesity but it has now been proven that what you eat is also connected your cancer risk, with some foods being carcino-preventative.
Some simple guidelines for good prostate health include eating as organically as possible and avoiding processed foods.
Cigarette smoking undoubtedly increases your risk of all cancers. Smoking isn’t just a risk factor for prostate cancer but it is also tied to a more aggressive type of prostate cancer. One report with a sample group of over 4 million men found that smokers have a 24% higher risk of death from prostate cancer than non-smokers.
In another Austrian research study using a sample group of 22,000 men, it was found that smokers were nearly twice as likely to die of prostate cancer than non smokers. The risk that the prostate cancer would spread was at 151% higher risk and there was a 40% higher risk chance that their prostate-specific antigen PSA would rise again after prostate cancer treatment signalling that the cancer had returned.
Risk factors you can’t control
There are prostate cancer risk factors that we cannot control.
Prostate cancer risk factors that you cannot control include:
- Family history
Your risk of prostate cancer develops as you age, however, prostate cancer should not be stereotyped as “an old man’s disease” because it can affect you at any age.
57% of prostate cancers may be diagnosed after the age of 65, the risk of developing prostate cancer drastically increases after the age of 50 which is why men over the age of 50 that are not classified as "high-risk" should begin baseline testing every two years.
For men who have higher risk factors such as their family history or those who are African American, baseline testing should begin from the age of 40-45, and should be carried out annually.
There are a number of gene mutations that can be passed from one generation to another and are found in all cells of the body. This risk factor accounts for 5-10% of all prostate cancers. Gene mutations can occur during a person’s lifetime and are not passed onto children, these are known as “acquired mutations.”
During cell division, each new cell must take a copy of DNA. In rare cases, this duplication of DNA is imperfect and can create defective DNA. This occurrence can be totally random but may be influenced by hormonal imbalances and diet. The faster your prostate cells divide, the more likely chance there is of mutations.
There is further study required on this topic but one example shows that men with higher levels of androgens, such as testosterone speeds up the rate of growth of prostate cells, therefore in some men, higher levels of testosterone may play a part in the rate of prostate cancer.
Family history is one of the most significant risk factors of prostate cancer. Your family history impacts on your overall chances of being diagnosed with this type of cancer.
One Swedish study, cited by the American Cancer Society, including a sample group of 52,000 men, investigated the level of risk involved in prostate cancer if a first-degree relative was also diagnosed with prostate cancer and found that:
Men with a brother who had or has prostate cancer are twice as likely as the general population to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Men with brothers who live with prostate cancer have a 30% risk of being diagnosed before the age of 75 compared to 13% of men with no history.
Men with a brother and father living with prostate cancer were 3 times as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than the general population. The chances of developing an aggressive cancer before the age of 75 was 14% in contrast to the rest of the population who carry a 5% chance.
It is not commonly known why black men have a higher risk of prostate cancer than white men but it is thought to be connected to genetic and socioeconomic factors. Prostate cancers also have a higher incidence rate in North America and Northern Europe, with an increased incidence rate in Asian men living in Hong-Kong and Singapore. Some contributing factors are said to be connected to exercise and diet.
Steps To Lowering Your Risk Of Prostate Cancer
When it comes to the steps that we recommend for lowering your chance of developing prostate cancer, the honest answer will probably not offer a whole lot of certainty, or not a whole lot in terms of specifics, more in generalities and the generalities really relate to things that we would otherwise know are recommended to live a good healthy life.
Things that are good for your heart tend to be good for your prostate. In other words trying to implement a plant based diet seems to be helpful.
There's not going to be “Oh here I want you to take this vitamin or I want you to refrain from certain activities or certain environmental exposure.”
Try to get the vitamins and minerals you need from food sources…
Fish oil supplementation gets a lot of publicity, the lay press talk about about the benefits of fish oil but there was an interesting study that in fact fish oil supplementation may actually increase the risk of prostate cancer.
There's no question that higher intake of fish oil actually can be preventative for cancers in general and even with prostate cancer. The problem comes in when you're trying to supplement it so that it has something to do with taking the supplement rather than getting fish oils through natural sources.
If you increase dietary intake of fish oils, you increase how much fish you're eating on a regular basis, particularly things like salmon for example that may be preventative but if you're actually just trying to take a vitamin to supplement your fish oil that may be harmful and so there's probably something that comes with that fish oil when you eat it through natural sources.
Fish may be preventative in addition to the fish oil but if you're taking fish oil as a supplement and you don't have any of those other factors that are occurring naturally with them, it may in fact be harmful so while I tell people yes increase your fish oil, I tell them to do it by eating fish, not by taking fish oil.
Eat organically where possible...
I'm saying eat a more plant based diet, get some of those higher sources of vitamins and stay away from processed refined foods, refined carbohydrates and things like that which ultimately have very little in the way of some of those vitamins that we're talking about but it's hard to make a statement that says: “Yes you need to be taking X amount of this vitamin supplement or X amount of that oil supplement or things like that .
“There's loads of conflicting information out there and I think that you know where you try to really have to make sense of it, it’s best to say moderation is going to be the common thread and getting at your natural sources is going to be your best strategy.”
Nature typically doesn't fail us and if you look back and you think about it from
the perspective that our bodies have evolved over millennia to get to where they are, your best way to live a healthy life and that is again trying to get your vitamins and minerals as naturally as you can.
Don’t use e-cigarettes in the absence of cigarettes...
Leave the tobacco products to the side. Not to open up a whole other Pandora's Box here but that doesn't mean just don't smoke. It means stay away from e-cigarettes and know the sources of things, which are purported to somehow be better. The reality is you're still putting the same carcinogens in your body. You need to stay away from them.
Written by Dr. Robert Mordkin | Edited by Hannah Kingston