Prostate Cancer

Top 10 Causes of Prostate Cancer and How to Avoid Them.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men (skin cancer is the first), according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). In 2007 alone, nearly 219,000 new cases of prostate cancer are expected in the United States, and over 27,000 men will die from the disease.

However, although one in six men will get prostate cancer during his lifetime, only one in 34 die from the disease. This is because prostate cancer is often slow growing (though it can at times grow quickly), and men may have the disease and not even know it.

Though it’s not known exactly what causes this disease, there are several known risk factors, some of which you can easily control to reduce your risk of prostate cancer.

The Top Causes of Prostate Cancer

  1. Age: Your risk of prostate cancer increases with age, particularly among men over 65 years old.
  2. Family history: If a close relative (father, brother) had prostate cancer, it will increase your risk.
  3. Diet: Men who eat a lot of processed meat, bad fats and refined grains have an increased risk of prostate cancer, particularly if they don’t eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.
  4. Exercise: Exercise is generally known to reduce the risk of all types of cancer, however men over 65 who exercise vigorously have been found to have a lower risk of prostate cancer, specifically.
  5. Ethnicity: African-American men have the highest rates of prostate cancer in the world, according to the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention.
  6. Environmental chemicals: Researchers are focusing increasingly on the potential chemical causes of prostate cancer. Exposure to pesticides has been linked with an increased risk, as has in-utero exposure to the plastics chemical bisphenol A (BPA) and other hormone-mimicking environmental contaminants.
  7. Cadmium: Exposure to excess levels of cadmium is also known to increase prostate cancer risk. Cadmium is found in foods (shellfish, liver and kidney meats have the highest levels), cigarette smoke, and contaminated air and water (particularly if you live near, or work in, a facility that manufactures batteries, pigments, metal coatings or plastics). Too many vitamins: Men who take excessive levels of vitamins — more than seven multivitamins a week — may be increasing their risk of prostate cancer by 30 percent, according to researchers at the National Cancer Institute.
  8. Too much, or too little, vitamin D. Men who had vitamin D deficiency, or excess vitamin D, both had an increased risk of prostate cancer, according to a study in the International Journal of Cancer.
  9. Vasectomy: Several studies have suggested that men who have had a vasectomy have a slightly higher risk of prostate cancer.

How to Lower Your Risk of Prostate Cancer

Although some risk factors of prostate cancer, like age, ethnicity and family history, are obviously beyond your control, there are plenty of factors that you DO have control over. Making the following changes may help to reduce your risk of this widespread cancer:

  • Eat more tomato-based foods. Tomatoes (particularly cooked varieties such as tomato sauces, paste and ketchup) are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which is known to prevent damage to DNA and fight prostate cancer. Pink grapefruit and watermelon are also good sources of lycopene.
  • Eat less processed meat and bad fats. Limiting your intake of processed meats like bacon, sausage and luncheon meats, along with your intake of bad fats, like trans fats, may also help reduce your risk.
  • Watch your calcium intake. Getting too much calcium beyond the recommended 1200 milligrams per day) could actually increase your risk of prostate cancer, according to the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention.
  • Consume more selenium. Selenium is thought to protect against cancer through its antioxidant content. It also may slow or prevent tumor growth by enhancing the immune system and suppressing blood vessels to the tumor. Foods rich in selenium include Brazil nuts, tuna, chicken, turkey, beef, brown rice, eggs and sunflower seeds.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise will not only reduce your risk of prostate cancer, but just about every other type of cancer as well.
  • Don’t smoke. This will increase your levels of cadmium.
  • Avoid exposure to environmental chemicals. As much as possible, try to limit your exposure to pesticides and BPA (found in tooth sealants, plastic containers and bottles, microwave ovenware and more).
  • Get the proper amount of vitamin D. Vitamin D inhibits the development and growth of prostate cancer cells. Experts say 15-20 minutes of sunlight a day is an ideal amount for a light-skinned person to produce the right amount of vitamin D.

Get Tested!

What is a PSA Test?

Answer: A PSA test measures the level of prostate specific antigen (PSA), a protein produced by the prostate gland, in the blood. Men with prostate cancer often have elevated PSA levels, but levels can fluctuate for a variety of reasons other than prostate cancer.

For men who are experiencing symptoms related to prostate cancer, such as difficulty urinating, the PSA test can be an effective screening method. However, the test is notorious for producing false positives and negatives and is not considered an effective stand-alone diagnostic tool. It is used in conjunction with digital rectal exams and ultimately, a prostate biopsy, to confirm or rule out cancer.

The test consists of a simple blood draw, and results are generally available within hours to a few days, depending on the lab facility your physician uses. A low level of PSA in the blood is ideal. Higher levels of PSA in the blood increases the likelihood of prostate cancer, but you have to remember that false positives are common with the test. PSA is measured by nanograms per millimeter (ng/mL) of blood. Most healthy men have under 4 ng/mL.

What Can Cause An Elevated PSA?

There are many things that can cause an elevated PSA level. Certain medications can cause it to rise, so it’s important to make your doctor aware of all medications that you take, including prescribed medication, over-the-counter medication, and any herbs or homeopathic supplements. Other factors that affect your PSA level include:

  • ejaculation
  • enlarged prostate gland
  • inflammation of the prostate gland
  • age (PSA levels can increase naturally with age)