Prostate Cancer Facts and Figures for Men over 40
What Every Man Over 45 needs to know about this Disease
Next to skin cancer, prostate cancer is now the most common cancer in men of varying ages. Although only about 2% of men in South East Asia develop it, the disease strikes up to 1 in 6 men of European ancestry and up to 1 in 5 men of African ancestry, according to the latest figures
Early diagnosis and treatment means there’s a good chance of NOT dying from the diseases, hence the suggestion that the over 45s are screened annually.
4 more Prostatic Cancer Statistics
- Prostate cancer is rare in men before the age of 40.
- About two thirds of cases are found in males 65 years or older.
- Across the board the average age of diagnosis is 67 years.
- Around 80% of men over the age of 80 have the disease.
A lot of men are likely to die with prostate cancer, rather than because of it. It’s not unusual for males to live for decades with the disorder and show absolutely no symptoms at all. Having said that, those who do show symptoms should get checked out without further delay.
It pays to be Mindful
Even if the disease doesn’t kill a man, should it go undiagnosed/untreated, the symptoms can make him truly miserable.
Prostate tumours can interfere with urination and ejaculation. When ejaculation is still possible, semen may flow backwards into the enlarged gland during climax.
The symptoms of prostate cancer are not limited to a man’s reproductive tract. The cancers can spread to adjacent lymph glands in the abdomen and around the anus. These are not places you want to have to deal with chronic, painful swelling.
The tumor can interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize sugar and to build muscle. Even in those cases where you are not likely to die from it, you may still want to get it treated if you’ve had a positive diagnosis.
The good news in the prostate cancer story (for the 80% or more of middle-age men who will never get the disease), is that the way doctors test for it no longer involves the unpleasant Digital Rectal Exam, aka DRE.
What’s wrong with a DRE?
Most men who are 45 and older are already too familiar with the dreaded digital exam their doctors used to seem unwholesomely eager to perform at every annual check-up, much to the discontent of the patient.
We used to be asked to drop ’em, bend over, and take a deep breath while the doctor rotated his finger through the anus to feel the edges of our prostate. Although it’s not a painful experience, there aren’t many guys who would actually say they enjoy the procedure.
And it turned out, there really wasn’t a whole lot to be learned from doing it. More often than not, medical researchers discovered that a prostate that felt irregular was not cancerous. Lumps in the prostate can also be caused by calcifications, cysts, and even parasites. On the other hand, a cancerous prostate may feel perfectly normal.
When the doctor felt something abnormal in the prostate, the next step always was to order a blood test called a PSA or prostate-specific antigen test. The PSA test doesn’t measure cancer in the prostate, it measures inflammation.
And what do you suppose a digital rectal exam does to the prostate? It irritates it, of course. An elevated PSA level after a DRE should have been expected, but the combination of tests led to lots of needless biopsies and and on occasions, unneeded surgery too.
In some cases, men’s sex lives have been ruined forever just because a doctor, with his finger up the bum, decided something didn’t feel quite right and decided to take things further.
The New Way to Screen for Prostate Cancer
At least in the USA, new prostate cancer screening guidelines bypass the finger test.
Nowadays, men who don’t have an unusually high risk of cancer (that is, they don’t have fathers, grandfathers, brothers, or uncles related by blood who have been diagnosed with it, and they are not African-American) don’t get a DRE. Instead, they have a test for PSA as part of their annual blood checks.
Note: A high PSA score doesn’t suggest a man has cancer, it only means his prostate is inflamed or irritated.
The next step in the diagnostic process is to biopsy the prostate, taking tiny samples of prostate tissue with a hollow needles inserted into the rectum though the anus – obviously more uncomfortable than a finger exam.
The biopsy may show cancer, but it could also show a bacterial infection, or it might show nothing at all. Many men who have chronic constipation develop low levels of prostate inflammation by straining at stool. But prostate cancer is never diagnosed on the basis of just a blood test – even if your PSA is 100, you might be totally free of cancer.
Even though PSA screening is usually dropped after a man reaches age 75, you can always ask your doctor to order it if you are concerned that you might develop a treatable prostate cancer. Your doctor will perform a digital rectal exam if you have repeated tests showing PSA levels over 1 nanogram per milliliter, but make sure your blood is drawn before the DRE.
How to Lower your Risk of Developing Prostate Cancer?
There is nothing you can do that absolutely guarantees you will not develop prostate cancer. But if there is prostate cancer in your family, you can lower your risk by:
- Avoid Smoking: If you do smoke, get your antioxidants from food, eating several servings of vegetables and fruit every day, rather than supplements. Smoking depletes some antioxidants and not others, and taking supplements that contain just one antioxidant, especially beta-carotene, actually raises your risk of both lung and prostate cancer. On the other hand, eating carrots (because carrots contain a variety of antioxidants), lowers it.
- Eat Tomatoes: Getting a little lycopene, the pigment that makes tomatoes red, lowers your risk of prostate cancer. Your gut can only absorb lycopene when you eat tomatoes with some fat. That doesn’t mean eating a whole pizza. As little as a teaspoon (5 grams) of any kind of fat with your serving of tomatoes is enough. Eating even one serving of tomatoes per month makes a statistical difference in your cancer risk. Eating more than one serving of tomatoes per day does not rack up any additional benefits. Pink grapefruit, watermelon, guavas, papayas, and persimmons also are beneficial. You can of course simply take supplemental lycopene that comes in capsule form.
- Avoid hot dogs , sausages, bacon, cured ham, and charcoal grilled meats: These foods create a chemical called 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (aka PhIP) as they are cooked. Studies have found that men who consume the greatest amounts of PhIP have about twice the risk of developing prostate cancer before age 75.
There’s also some evidence that limiting sugar consumption may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, but if you have made it to the age of 75 without developing any kind of cancer, then you can better focus your attention on other aspects of men’s health.
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY ROBERT RISTER | 50ish Site Contributor
Robert Rister is a senior health writer here at 50ish.org