Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This is Prostate Cancer Awareness Week

A post for all the men out there. 

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men - it will afflict 1 in 6 men. If you are over forty it is important to know the facts.

Symptoms of prostate cancer may include slow or painful urination, blood or pus in the urine, painful ejaculation and pain in the lower back or abdomen, pelvis or upper thighs. If this sounds like you - see a doctor right away!

The good news is that in most cases, prostate tumours grow relatively slowly. It usually takes years for tumours to become large enough to be detectable and it takes even longer for them to spread out of the prostate. 

The bad news is that a small number of men have aggressive prostate cancers that grow and spread quickly. At diagnosis, it is tough to know which category a man falls into and this can make treatment decisions hard. 

No one thing causes prostate cancer, but research has pinpointed a variety of factors that may lead to the disease. Some factors, such as diet and weight can be controlled, while others such as age, environmental factors, ethnicity and family history cannot be changed.

Diet is linked to prostate cancer. A low fat diet may help prevent prostate cancer. Men who eat a low-fibre, high-fat diet have a higher rate of prostate cancer.  A 30+ year study which tracked more than 6,000 Swedish men found that eating fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, could reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 30 per cent. Men in the study who ate no fish had a nearly three times greater risk of developing prostate cancer.

Age is also an important consideration. More than 80 per cent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over 65 years old and 90 per cent of men who die from the disease are in this age group. Discuss your prostate cancer risk with your doctor when you turn 40. Most men should start having yearly digital rectal exams and PSA tests starting at age 50. Men in a high risk group (for example, if the disease runs in your family) should start getting tested earlier.

Environmental Factors is the third factor that may lead to the disease. Men who work in certain jobs have a higher likelihood of developing prostate cancer. Working in agriculture is linked to a 40 per cent increase in risk. The culprit is the chemical carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) that are found in some insecticides. 

In November 2006, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reported that firefighters are at significantly higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Researchers believe there is a direct connection between the chemicals they are exposed to when they put out fires and their increased risk.

Ethnicity or nationality is also important. The disease is most common and deadly among those of African or Caribbean descent, followed (in order) by white non-Hispanics, white Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.

Finally, family history is an indicator. Ten to 15 per cent of men with prostate cancer, have a family history of the disease. Men with a family history, tend to develop prostate cancer at an early age (under 55 years old). Men who have one first-degree relative (father, brother) with prostate cancer have a two-fold increased risk of developing prostate cancer during their lifetime. 

There is a prostate cancer gene. The fact that a gene exists gives us hope for new tests and a cure for the hereditary form of the disease.

Text courtesy of Prostate Cancer Canada,