Some risk factors you can’t control … but others you can.
“People have been very interested in trying to prevent prostate cancer,” says William H. Oh, MD, chief of hematology and oncology at Mount Sinai Health System. “But there’s nothing that we know of that definitely prevents prostate cancer.” Learn more about prostate cancer here.
Even though there’s no surefire way to prevent prostate cancer, there may be things you can do to lower your risk. While many risk factors may be out of your control, there are some things you do have control over: Living a healthy lifestyle and talking to your doctor about your risk.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors You Can’t Control
There are many risk factors that are out of your control (but still important to be aware of), such as:
Age: Prostate cancer most commonly occurs in men older than 50, but it can still happen in younger men. About 6 in 10 prostate cancers are found in men older than 65, according to the American Cancer Society.
Ethnicity: Prostate cancer is more common in African-American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races.
Geography: Prostate cancer is more common in certain parts of the world, specifically North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and on Caribbean islands. The reason for this is not clear, but it could be due to lifestyle differences (e.g., diet) and screening accessibility.
Family history: Men who have a father or brother with prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease.
Inherited gene changes: Certain gene changes, such as inherited mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, may increase a man’s risk for prostate cancer.
Having risk factors for prostate cancer does not mean you will get it. Knowing your risk factors, however, can help you and your doctor assess your risk and determine a plan of action to lower your chances of developing the disease.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors You Can Control
Your risk for developing prostate cancer may also be affected by factors that you can control, such as your lifestyle. The effects of lifestyle changes on prostate cancer risk are not clear, but there may be things you can do that might lower your risk.
“In general, my advice to my patients is to live a very healthy lifestyle. The most important thing is to eat a heart-healthy diet and exercise,” says Dr. Oh.
Prostate Cancer Screening
Prostate cancer can often be found before symptoms start by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in a man’s blood. “PSA screening is very controversial, but most recently men between the ages of 50 and 70 are recommended to discuss screening with their primary care doctors or urologists,” says Dr. Oh.
Another way to find prostate cancer is the digital rectal exam (DRE), in which the doctor puts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland.
Men thinking about getting screened for prostate cancer should make informed decisions based on the available information, discussion with their doctor, and their own views on the possible benefits, risks, and limits of prostate cancer screening.
“I’ve been an oncologist in this field for 20 years, and I’ve seen a tremendous amount of change in the field—a lot of advancement, in both the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer,” says Dr. Oh. “So I’m really optimistic that in the future, one day, we will actually figure out how to prevent this disease.”
Dr. Oh is the chief of hematology and oncology at Mount Sinai Hospital, specializing in the management of prostate, renal, bladder, and testicular cancers. He is also the deputy director of The Tisch Cancer Institute of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
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People have been very interested in trying
to prevent prostate cancer, and in fact,
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several large studies were done over
the last few decades to see if it could
00:00:09,246 --> 00:00:09,800
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Unfortunately, none of those studies have
really shown definitively that we can
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prevent prostate cancer.
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That's because it's a cancer that takes
a very, very long time to show up.
00:00:19,078 --> 00:00:23,723
So in general, my advice to my patients
is to live a very healthy lifestyle.
00:00:23,723 --> 00:00:27,009
The most important thing is to eat
a heart-healthy diet and exercise, but
00:00:27,009 --> 00:00:30,520
there's nothing that we know of that
definitively prevents prostate cancer.
00:00:30,520 --> 00:00:37,119
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Prostate cancer is the most common
cancer in men in the United States, and
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the second leading cause of cancer death.
00:00:42,023 --> 00:00:44,062
So it is a very important disease.
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We unfortunately don't know what
causes prostate cancer, but
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we know that it's very important as
you get older because it's very,
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very prevalent as you get older.
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Generally speaking, PSA screening is
considered for men over the age of 50.
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But there are some men where an earlier
age for screening might be indicated.
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For example, if you have a strong family
history or if you're African American, or
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otherwise have some risk factors that
your doctor may be concerned about.
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You may be screened at an earlier age,
for example, in your 40s.
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The other question really is,
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are there other tests that can
help to detect prostate cancer?
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And if you do have symptoms, you really
should see your primary care doctor or
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You should have a digital rectal exam,
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which is a physical
examination of your prostate.
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And you should have a PSA test.
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I've been an oncologist in this field for
now 20 years, and
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I've seen a tremendous amount
of change in the field.
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A lot of advancement, both the diagnosis
and also treatment of prostate cancer.
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So I'm really optimistic
that in the future,
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one day we will actually figure
out how to prevent this disease.
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But in the meantime, our outcomes for
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most men with prostate cancer
are really outstanding.
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And our research will continue to improve
our ability to diagnose this cancer early,
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and really improve quality of life for all
men who are at risk for prostate cancer.
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Prostate Cancer (The Basics). UpToDate. (Accessed on August 20, 2019 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/prostate-cancer-the-basics#H457221577)
Can Prostate Cancer Be Found Early? American Cancer Association. (Accessed on August 20, 2019 at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/detection.html)
Can Prostate Cancer Be Prevented? American Cancer Association. (Accessed on August 20, 2019 at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/early-detection/prevention.html)
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors. American Cancer Association. (Accessed on August 20, 2019 at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/early-detection/risk-factors-for-prostate-cancer.html)