Cancer is a disease that occurs when cells within the body mutate and start beginning to grow at an uncontrollable rate. Virtually any cell in the body can become cancerous and can spread into other parts of the body.
Prostate cancer occurs when the cells located in the prostate gland grow out of control. This gland is specific to men and it is a vital part of the male reproductive system. The prostate produces a majority of the fluid that is found in semen, which houses sperm. This gland also filters out and removes toxins to protect sperm, aides in forming erections and controls the flow of urine. Prostate cancer can impact every function of this gland and without treatment, it can spread and eventually cause death.
Though the exact cause of prostate cancer is not known, there are certain risk factors that may increase the risk of developing it.
1. Family history
Of all the risk factors that are associated with developing prostate cancer, your genetics is the most significant. People who have a family history of this type of cancer are much more at risk of developing it than those who do not have a family history. This is particularly true if a close relative has been diagnosed with the disease, such as your father or your brother. Inherited genes can certainly play a role in the development of this type of cancer.
Men who have the BRCA2 gene are five times more likely to develop prostate cancer than men you do not possess this gene. The risk may be even higher for men who have the BRCA1 gene. If anyone in your family has had prostate cancer, having a regular exam can detect if there are any abnormalities in your prostate that could lead to cancer.
2. Your age
Though prostate cancer can affect men of all ages, it is very rare in younger men. The chances of developing this type of cancer significantly increase with age. Most cases of prostate cancer appear in men who are 50 years of age or older, which is why health experts recommend men have an exam once they reach the age of 50.
More than 80 percent of men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are 65 years of age or older; however, if you have a family history of cancer, having a screening by the age of 40 is recommended. After having your first screening, the time until your next screening depends on the results of a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. If your PSA is below 2.5 ng/mL, retesting every 2 years is recommended; if it is below this level, a yearly prostate examination is highly suggested.
3. Your ethnic background
Your ethnic background can also increase your risks of developing prostate cancer. Men who are of African descent are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men. Moreover, they are more likely to have an advanced stage of the disease when they are diagnosed. Furthermore, African American men are more likely to develop aggressive forms of this type of cancer than men of any other ethnicity group.
Conversely, men who have are of Asian or Hispanic descent are the least likely to develop prostate cancer. The reason for the higher incidence in men of African descent is believed to be the difference in their androgen receptor genes. Furthermore, their environment may play a role, as the incidence of prostate cancer among men who live in Africa is lower than African American men. If you are African American, your risk of prostate cancer is higher.
4. Being significantly overweight
Men who are obese (who have a body mass index of 30 or higher) are more likely than men who are a healthy weight to develop cancer, as are men who are overweight (have a body mass index that ranges between 25 and 30). While the exact reason why men who are obese or overweight have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer is unknown, it is believed that it has something to do with how their weight affects their hormones.
Most notably, testosterone, estrogen, insulin, and insulin-like growth factor, as well as leptin, and all of these hormones have been linked to prostate cancer to some degree. Furthermore, men who are obese or overweight tend to eat diets that are high in trans fats, and it is believed that there may be some correlation with consuming foods that contain trans fats and prostate cancer.
5. Your height
If you are on the tall side, you could be at a higher risk for developing an aggressive form of this prostate cancer. According to a recent study which analyzed the height of men and their risks for developing prostate cancer, it was found that men who have a taller stature are much more likely to be affected by this form of cancer than men who have shorter stature.
However, the study revealed that taller men were not more likely to develop prostate cancer overall than shorter men. With that said, the research found that men who were 6 feet tall or taller were 54 percent more likely to develop an aggressive form of prostate cancer than men who were 5 feet 4 inches or shorter. Additionally, men who were 6 feet tall or taller were 43 percent more likely to perish as a result of prostate cancer.
6. A history of cancer
If have a history of cancer, you are also at a greater risk for developing prostate cancer. It has been found that men who have previously had certain forms of cancer are more likely to develop prostate cancer than men who have not. These types of cancer include kidney, lung, bladder, melanoma skin cancer, and thyroid cancer.
The reason men who have a history of these types of cancer are more prone to prostate cancer is because these forms of cancer are more likely to spread to other areas in the body, including the prostate. Furthermore, even if men who have had these types of cancer are in remission, they are still at a greater risk for developing prostate cancer. If you have a history or any of the above-mentioned cancers, it is in your best interest to have a routine prostate exam.
7. Exposure to certain chemicals
Recent studies have suggested that there is some evidence that men who are exposed to certain types of chemicals are at a greater risk for prostate cancer. For example, there has been some evidence that indicates that firefighters who are exposed to certain types of chemicals have a higher risk of prostate cancer.
There have also been studies that indicate that exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical that was largely used in the Vietnam War, could increase the risk of prostate cancer; however, this evidence is not definitive, rather there is limited evidence that there is a link between the exposure to Agent Orange and prostate cancer, but it’s still important to note. It is believed that exposure to certain types of chemicals may alter the DNA of certain genes within the body, which can increase the likelihood for developing various types of cancer, including prostate.
8. Your food choices.
Your diet may also put you at a greater risk for developing prostate cancer. The specific role that diet plays in prostate cancer isn’t clear, though several factors have been examined. It appears that men who consume a large amount of full-fat dairy products and red meat have a greater risk of getting prostate cancer.
Coincidentally, men who eat more of these foods also eat fewer vegetables and fruits, which could also contribute to their higher risk of developing the disease; however, researchers are not certain which of these factors is to blame for increasing the risk. Also, some research has indicated that men who eat a lot of calcium may also have a higher risk of prostate cancer; however, the link between prostate cancer and calcium is not clear and it should be noted that calcium does provide definite benefits to a man’s health.