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Prostate cancer affects about 1 in 9 men. Lower your risk with these 6 tips.

Most men likely don’t think about their prostates until there’s trouble. However, there’s good reason to keep it on your radar, especially as you get older. After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting men. And although the likelihood of developing prostate cancer increases as you age, there are ways you can lower your risk.

What is the prostate?

Your prostate is a small gland about the size of a walnut that sits in front of the rectum and below the bladder and surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that moves urine out of the bladder. A part of the male reproductive system, the prostate is responsible for producing some of the fluid that contains semen. 

As men age, their prostate gland can get bigger. And when the prostate becomes larger, it can add extra pressure on the urethra, making you urinate more often, especially at night, or making it harder to “go” in general.

“An enlarged prostate is a natural part of getting older,” says Dr. Matthew Meissner, a urologist at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. “That’s why it’s important for men to understand what happens as they age and watch for symptoms such as frequent urination, straining to urinate or feelings of incomplete bladder emptying.”

What is prostate cancer?

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer for men. In fact, one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during their lifetime. 

Prostate cancer develops when the healthy, normal cells in the prostate gland begin to “go rogue” by growing and functioning in a different way. These cancerous cells can begin to build up and form a mass called a tumor, which exists as a lump inside the body.

Prostate cancer is most commonly diagnosed in men 65 and older and more frequently in African-American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer.

“While prostate cancer is common, the good news is that it is curable with surgery or radiation therapy. The 5-year survival rate for prostate cancer that is confined entirely to the prostate gland is nearly 100 percent,” Dr. Meissner says. “In addition, not all prostate cancers are the same. Certain types of prostate cancer are not aggressive and can be safely managed with close monitoring – a strategy known as ‘active surveillance.’”

Some common signs and symptoms of prostate cancer include:

  • Frequent urination, particularly at night
  • Straining to urinate or having a weak flow
  • Pain or burning while urinating
  • Blood in urine or semen

However, just because you experience these symptoms does not automatically mean you have prostate cancer. These symptoms can also be indicative of an enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia. It’s also important to note that early-stage prostate cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms.

Less commonly, men with prostate cancer may experience pain or stiffness when sitting; numbness in the legs, feet or hips; swelling in the groin area; or bone pain. These can be indicators that the cancer has spread. 

6 tips to reduce your risk for prostate cancer

“While there is no surefire way to prevent prostate cancer, there are several things men can do to reduce their risks,” says Dr. Meissner.

Here are some ways to start:

1. Exercise –Moving for even a few minutes a day not only lowers your risk of developing prostate cancer but other conditions such as heart disease.
2. Adopt a healthy diet – Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy can help reduce your risk of prostate cancer.
3. Maintain a healthy weight – Keeping in line with the previous points, a balanced diet and regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight. Men who have a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 30 may be at a higher risk for prostate cancer.
4. Drink coffee – According to a recent Harvard study, men who drink coffee regularly may be linked to having a reduced prostate cancer risk.
5. Stop smoking – Quitting smoking is beneficial in more ways than one. For men who stop smoking, the risk of dying from prostate cancer can be reduced to the same as a person who has never smoked. It can also lessen the chance of prostate cancer returning.
6. Talk with your doctor about your risk – Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening is a blood test used to check for prostate cancer. While prostate cancer is one of many things that can cause an elevated PSA, annual PSA testing has been shown to detect prostate cancer early and improve survival in certain men. In general, men between ages 55 and 69 will benefit from routine PSA checks. Not all men will benefit from PSA testing, which is why it’s important to discuss the test with your doctor.  

Although prostate cancer can’t be prevented, adopting these healthy habits can help reduce the likelihood of developing it. 

Next steps:

Make an appointment with Matthew Meissner, MD
Get prostate care
Learn about urology care at Geisinger