It's the No. 1 cancer diagnosed in men. About one in six men will receive a diagnosis during his lifetime.
Prostate cancer affects thousands of American men every year. Fortunately, even though it's the most common cancer in men, it's also far from the deadliest. In fact, many men die of other diseases before the cancer progresses to a point where it can be fatal. But it's still crucial to understand this cancer and what to do should you receive a diagnosis.
September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. So let's take today to review some of our key points about this important topic. We encourage you to read them and share them with all the men in your life.
Live a Preventive Lifestyle
One of the best things you can do to combat prostate cancer is to stay healthy and engage in behaviors known to help prevent it.
First, try some green tea. In 2010, researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that an antioxidant in green tea stopped the growth of prostate cancer cells. The antioxidant is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG even sped up cell death in cancer cells while leaving noncancerous cells unharmed.
In fact, a 2016 randomized-control study – the gold standard for medical research – saw that a compound in green tea actually lowered prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in men with early stages of prostate cancer.
Second, stay active. A new study out last week from Finland showed that men with physically demanding jobs had lower risks of prostate cancer. This makes sense, as we've seen previous studies tie a sedentary lifestyle to all kinds of cancers, including prostate cancer.
A 2017 study published in European Urology looked at men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Those who engaged in moderate exercise after diagnosis cut their risk of death by cancer by 31%.
Third, eat a diet full of vegetables. Tomatoes especially help with prostate cancer because of their lycopene. Lycopene not only prevents prostate cancer but alleviates some urinary tract symptoms as well.
Finally, ejaculating more than 12 times a month lowers the risk... and some doctors consider 21 times a month ideal. There's some disagreement regarding the age range that receives this benefit. However, most of the studies agree for men over 50, this is a good strategy to help reduce prostate cancer risk.
Know Your Testing Options
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test for prostate cancer. Longtime subscribers know I've warned against getting a PSA test for years. These tests are notorious for giving false-positive results because benign factors can cause elevated PSA levels. Inflammation, infection, recent ejaculation, and even riding a bike can increase your PSA levels.
Studies show the PSA is unlikely to reduce your chance of dying from prostate cancer. As we said earlier, most men die of something else because of the disease's extremely slow progression. A positive PSA test can also lead to overtreatment. The treatments for prostate cancer can lead to worse side effects than the cancer itself... including impotence and heart problems.
Don't let your doctor test you unless you have symptoms and some of the risk factors. Symptoms include:
- Frequent urination
- Hesitancy with urination (hard to get started)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Burning with urination
- Pain in the lower back
- Stiffness in the upper legs
- Blood in urine or semen
Risk increases with age. Of all the men who reach the age of 80, a surprising 80% will have prostate cancer cells. Other risk factors include family history, ethnicity (African-American men have higher rates of prostate cancer), and lifestyle.
If you have these symptoms and risk factors, see your doctor to discuss the possibility of prostate cancer. Ask your doctor to do a digital rectal exam (DRE) – it's not quite as bad as it sounds, just awkward. He should also get the blood level of his PSA. These tests are simple and inexpensive...
Once you have a baseline level of both your prostate anatomy and the PSA test, you can follow things over time. If your symptoms worsen, you can compare to the first test... If the doctor also finds a change, it's time for treatment.
The most important part is finding a doctor who has a good record of catching prostate cancer early. Call a couple local oncologists (cancer doctors) and find out who sends them the most prostate cancer patients. Yes, just call up and ask for the information. Use it to find the best doctor out there.
Keeping your prostate in good shape and managing your cancer properly will let you enjoy a long, healthy life.
What We're Reading...
- Why prostate cancer likely won't kill you.
- In case you missed it: More on green tea and cancer.
- Something different: Delivering a baby is just like popping a wine cork?
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
September 4, 2018