Doctors cannot always explain why one person gets cancer and another does not. Scientists have studied general patterns of cancer to learn what things may increase our chance of developing cancer. Anything that increases the chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor. Anything that lessens the chance of getting a disease is called a protective factor.
Some risk factors can be avoided and others cannot. It is also important to keep in mind that avoiding risk factors does not guarantee that you will not get cancer. Plus, most people with a particular risk factor for cancer do not actually get the disease. Some people are more sensitive than others to factors that can cause cancer.
- Age: The risk of developing prostate cancer increases as a man gets older.
- Family. A man's risk is higher if his father or brother had prostate cancer.
- Certain prostate changes. Men with cells called high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) may be at increased risk for prostate cancer.
- Diet and lifestyle: The effect of diet on prostate cancer risk is under study. A diet high in fat, especially animal fat, may be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Other studies show that a diet high in dairy products and calcium may be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, although the increase may be small. More studies are needed to determine with more certainty.
- Race: The risk of prostate cancer is dramatically higher among blacks, intermediate among whites, and lowest among native Japanese. This increase in risk may be due to other factors associated with race. Studies have shown a link between levels of testosterone and prostate cancer risk. Black men have the highest levels of testosterone.
- Chemoprevention: Chemoprevention is the use of specific natural or man made drugs, vitamins, or other agents to reverse, suppress, or prevent cancer growth. Several drugs, difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), isoflavonoids, selenium, vitamins D and E, and lycopene have shown potential benefit in studies. Further studies are needed to confirm this.
- Hormonal Prevention: Studies are underway to discover the role of certain drugs, such as finasteride, that reduce the amount of male hormone as preventive agents for prostate cancer.
- Men who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fat, may have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Studies are being done to further research this protective factor.
Symptoms of prostate cancer are:
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- Inability to urinate
- Need to urinate often, especially at night
- Burning with urination
Screening for prostate cancer is controversial. There are two types of screening tests are available to screen for prostate cancer: digital rectal exam and prostatic specific antigen blood test. Each test can produce false results. This can lead to unnecessary treatment, which can be harmful. Research is being done to determine the best method of screening for prostate cancer. Talk with your doctor about what is best for you.
For more information about any cancer concern, contact:
Cancer Information Service
Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center
UI Hospitals and Clinics
200 Hawkins Drive, 4802 JPP
Iowa City, Iowa 52242