September 17, 2019

Are you at risk for prostate cancer?

Age, family history, and race are key factors.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States.

As men age, their risk of developing prostate cancer increases. That’s why studies show prostate cancer is most common in, but not exclusive to, men older than 65.

“Studies tell us that age, family history, and race — especially if you’re African American — strongly influence your chances of developing prostate cancer,” said Farah M. Brasfield, MD, regional chief of hematology oncology with Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.

“Men of a younger age can also get prostate cancer, which is why it’s important to discuss testing for prostate cancer with your doctor,” Dr. Brasfield continued. “This is especially true since typically there are no symptoms in the early stages of prostate cancer; and, as is the case with other types of cancers, treatment works best with early diagnosis.”

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s also one of the leading causes of cancer death among men of all races. In fact, out of every 100 American men, about 13 will get prostate cancer during their lifetime.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland start to grow out of control. Because it often grows slowly, it can take years for the prostate to grow large enough to cause health problems. “Most men are unaware they have prostate cancer until it’s detected during a regular medical exam,” Dr. Brasfield said. “Difficulty with urination is often the first symptom.”

Dr. Brasfield urges men to see their doctor for a prostate checkup if they:

  • Are 50 or older
  • Urinate often, especially at night
  • Experience pain or burning during urination
  • Are unable to urinate at all
  • Experience difficulty having an erection
  • See blood in their urine or semen
  • Have deep or frequent pain in their lower back, stomach, hip, or pelvis

There are actions you can take to reduce or delay the risk of developing prostate cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, men should:

  • Eat healthy: Eat at least 2 1/2 cups of a wide variety of vegetables and fruits each day, including cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, which are linked to lowering the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Be physically active: Men who are physically active have a slightly reduced risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Stay at a healthy weight: Though the connection to weight is unclear, men who are overweight have a higher risk of developing a terminal prostate cancer.

“I encourage men to open a discussion with their doctor on this topic during their routine annual physical,” Dr. Brasfield said.