Prostate Cancer

The prostate is a golf-ball-sized gland that sits between the bladder and the penis. It secretes fluid that nourishes and protects sperm. Most older men have some cancer cells in their prostate glands. But because these cells usually grow slowly, they don't cause symptoms or affect health in most men. That said, about 230,000 American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and nearly 30,000 die of it.

Exactly why some men develop full-blown prostate cancer and others don't is a mystery. But researchers have identified several factors that raise a man's risk of the disease. These include:

Age. Older men are far more likely to develop prostate cancer than younger men.

Race. African-American men are more likely to get prostate cancer than other men, and to be diagnosed with more advanced-stage cancer.

Family history. A man whose father or brother has been diagnosed with prostate cancer is two to three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than a man who doesn't have family members with the disease.

Lifestyle. Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products seem to have a higher risk of prostate cancer.

Treatments for prostate cancer include an operation to remove the prostate (prostatectomy) and radiation therapy. Both often cause side effects such as incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Since early treatment with surgery or radiation doesn't necessarily "cure" the disease, and prevents relatively few men from dying from prostate cancer, more and more men are opting for a strategy known as watchful waiting or active surveillance. They and their doctors monitor the low-risk cancer closely and choose treatment only when the disease appears to make threatening moves toward growing and spreading.

Prostate Cancer Articles

On call: Penile shortening post-prostatectomy

I am trying to decide between a radical prostatectomy and radioactive seed therapy for my newly diagnosed prostate cancer. All the doctors I’ve consulted say I have very early disease (PSA 4.9, Gleason score 6) and that I should be cured either way. I’m basing my decision on side effects, but I need more information on one thing I learned about on the Internet, penile shortening.   (Locked) More »

Reducing prostate cancer risk: Good news, bad news, or no new news?

Two recent studies report that common dietary elements appear to reduce prostate cancer risk. The blood fat study contradicted research that suggested omega-3 fats may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. The coffee study counteracts the vague but prevailing belief that something as good as coffee must somehow be bad for you. Results of these studies must be placed in the larger context of how a man's diet affects his overall health. (Locked) More »

Bladder cancer: Men at risk

One of the unappreciated benefits of growing older is that cancer of the testicles becomes rare — but as men outgrow that risk, they face the problem of prostate cancer. With these well-publicized diseases to head their worry list, it's easy for men to overlook bladder cancer — but that would be a mistake. More »

Testosterone replacement: A cautionary tale

Testosterone therapy has been viewed as a way to counter the effects of aging where bone calcium declines, muscle mass decreases, body fat increases and red blood cell counts decline. But there is no proof that testosterone therapy will reverse these changes and its safety for older men remains controversial. A study found that men who took daily testosterone had a higher incidence of cardiovascular events. Its role in prostate disease, both benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer is unresolved. (Locked) More »

Testosterone, prostate cancer, and balding: Is there a link?

We can thank the Greeks for the name doctors apply to male hormones. Androgen comes from the words meaning "man-maker," and it's a well-chosen term. Testosterone is the most potent androgen, and it does make the man. It's responsible for the deep voice, increased muscle mass, and strong bones that characterize the gender, and it also stimulates the production of red blood cells by the bone marrow. In addition, testosterone has crucial, if incompletely understood, effects on male behavior. It contributes to aggression, and it's essential for the libido or sex drive, as well as for normal erections and sexual performance. Testosterone stimulates the growth of the genitals at puberty, and it is one of the factors required for sperm production throughout adult life. Finally, testosterone also acts on the liver. Normal amounts are harmless, but high doses can cause liver disease and boost the production of LDL ("bad") cholesterol while lowering the amount of HDL ("good") cholesterol. More »

No link found between prostate cancer and vasectomy

But the new study, published in the June 19, 2002, Journal of the American Medical Association, should ease men's minds. It involved over 2,000 men of European descent living in New Zealand, the country with the highest rate of vasectomies. Researchers asked 953 men with prostate cancer and 1,260 who were cancer free about their medical histories — including whether they had had a vasectomy. It turned out that slightly fewer men with prostate cancer had undergone the surgery, which supports claims that going under the knife doesn't cause cancer. The same held true for the 38% of men studied who had had the procedure more than 25 years ago, which suggests that there are no long-term effects. One reason why the link may have been found in earlier studies is that men who have vasectomies generally see their urologists more often, which may lead to more tumors being found in these men as compared to others, the researchers said. The study also found no link between prostate cancer and history of sexually transmitted disease, smoking, drinking alcohol, and number of children. More »