Prostate Cancer

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Prostate Cancer 101 

Prostate cancer is defined as the growth of malignant cells within the prostate, part of the male productive system. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located in front of the rectum and below the bladder. Prostate glands (also called the seminal vesicles) are part of the organ that produces most fluids in the semen. The size of the prostate gland enlarges as the male ages.

Although one of the most common types of cancer among male patients in the US, the development of prostate cancer is often slow (indolent). There is a high chance of successful treatment when detected in the early stages. A simple blood test focusing on the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) produced by the prostate can measure the level of protein in the blood and detect any abnormalities. Another method to detect prostate cancer is a digital rectal exam (DRE). The doctor examines the patient’s lower rectum, pelvis, and lower belly and physically searches for an abnormal mass. 

There are five types of prostate cancer: 

  • Acinar adenocarcinoma: In general, adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that starts in glandular (mucus-producing) cells. Acinar adenocarcinomas are the most common type, consisting of 95 percent of prostate cancer cases. 
  • Ductal adenocarcinoma: This starts in cells that line in the ducts (tubes) of the prostate gland and tends to grow and spread more quickly than acinar adenocarcinoma. It is a rare, aggressive, and histologic variant of prostate cancer. 
  • Transitional cell (or urothelial) cancer: It is the type that starts in the urethra, which is the tube carrying urine to the outside of the body. Transitional cell cancer usually starts in the bladder and then spreads into the prostate. In some cases, it first begins in the prostate and then spreads into the bladder entrance and the nearby tissues. 
  • Squamous cell cancer: This is a rare type of prostate cancer that starts in the flat cells covering the prostate. 
  • Small cell prostate cancer: Small cell prostate cancer comprises small round cells. It’s rare and a type of neuroendocrine cancer. 

Symptoms and Signs 

The symptoms and signs of prostate cancer can vary. Although the cause might be a condition other than cancer, any of the symptoms should be taken seriously, and the person experiencing one or more symptoms is advised to see a doctor right away. The general symptoms of prostate cancer are as listed: 

  • Difficulty starting urination. 
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine. 
  • Frequent urination, especially at night. 
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder completely. 
  • Pain or burning during urination. 
  • Blood in the urine or semen. 
  • Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away. 
  • Painful ejaculation. 

Risk Factors 

A risk factor is defined as the cause that increases the chances of the occurrence of a disease. For example, the risk factors for prostate cancer differ in age, race/ethnicity, geography, family history (genetics), gene changes, lifestyle, and medical history. 

Age: Prostate cancer is rare among men under 40. However, with age, the risk increases rapidly. According to data from, about 6 in 10 cases of prostate cancer are found in men older than 65. 

Race/Ethnicity: Although racial and ethnic causes cannot be identified clearly, prostate cancer is most common among African American men. This group also tends to develop prostate cancer earlier than the rest of the population. 

Geography: There is insufficient data to back the geographical factors wholly based on one’s region. They are generally associated with lifestyle choices such as diet and habits. But in general, prostate cancer is most common among men in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and on Caribbean Islands, while seen less commonly in Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America. 

Family History: Although it does not necessarily mean a person will develop prostate cancer during their lifetime if they have a prostate cancer patient in their family, it still presents itself as a genetic risk factor. About 20 percent of all prostate cancer patients have a family member with the same disease. According to, having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing the disease. It is noted that the risk is even higher for men whose brother has prostate cancer than for those whose father has it. If more than one relative has prostate cancer, the risk is much higher, especially if it is detected in their youth. Scientists consider a patient in a high-risk group if the following situations exist: 

  • Three or more family members who have had prostate cancer 
  • At least two first-degree family members under the age of 55 with prostate cancer 
  • Prostate cancer on one side of the family in 3 generations 

Inherited mutations occur in the following genes: 

  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 
  • CHEK2, ATM, PALB2, and RAD51D 
  • HOXB13 
  • DNA mismatch repair genes (MSH2, MSH6, MLH1, and PMS2) 
  • RNASEL (formerly called HPC1) 

Lifestyle: A person’s habits, behavior and living conditions, and exposure to certain chemicals might affect prostate cancer development. The findings show that obese men have a lower risk of developing slow-growing prostate cancer a high risk of developing aggressive types of prostate cancer. In addition, men consuming dairy products have a slightly higher risk of getting prostate cancer. 

Smoking is considered a factor that increases the mortality of the disease. There is some evidence that firefighters can be exposed to chemicals that may increase the risk of prostate cancer. And although considered as suggestive evidence by the National Academy of Medicine, exposure to Agent Orange (a chemical widely used during the Vietnam War) might be a possible risk factor. Having a vasectomy is also researched as a risk factor. Although some studies found that it might slightly increase the risk, others have not seen that. 


There is a link between the risk factors and prostate cancer prevention. Age, race, and genetics are considered factors that cannot be controlled; however, some lifestyle changes might be adapted to diminish the risk of developing the disease. Having regular exercise helps strengthen the cardiovascular system, which improves the body’s overall condition. Following a healthy diet that contains various nutritious sources, limiting red meat, avoiding processed and high-sugar food and beverages also contributes to overall health. Although not all researchers agree, reducing calcium intake is also considered a risk-lowering behavior. Several kinds of research show that some vitamins (Vitamin E and selenium), minerals, and supplements (soy and isoflavones) may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. But it should be noted that these should not be taken without consulting a doctor since they might have risks and benefits.