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Prostate Health

Understanding the risk factors and symptoms of prostate cancer

This article is not intended to replace professional medical care or advice. If you have any questions or need additional information, please talk with your doctor.

Following skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S. Roughly 1 in 9 men gets prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. In the USA alone, there are more than 160,000 new cases of prostate cancer each year.

Prostate cancer affects 1 in 9 men

Who is at risk?

Although new research on the link between gene changes and prostate cancer is underway, according to the ACS, scientists have yet to discover what exactly causes the disease. However, several risk factors have been identified.

The risk of developing this cancer increases with age and is most common in men over the age of 65. The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) reports that more than 65 percent of diagnoses are in men 65 and older. Diagnosis in younger men is extremely rare – just 1 in 10,000 men under the age of 40 will be diagnosed – but the chance of having prostate cancer rises quickly after age 50.

The ACS reported that family history and race are two other strong risk factors. If one’s brother or father has had the disease, his chance of getting it himself increases. The risk is higher if it’s a brother and if more than one relative has been diagnosed. The reason is still unclear, but the disorder is more common in African American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry than in white men. Not only are African-American men more likely to be diagnosed, but they’re also more than two times as likely to die of prostate cancer. The disease is much less common in Asian-American, Hispanic and Latino men than white men. According to the ACS, geography and related lifestyle practices may be one explanation as prostate cancer is most common in Australia, northwestern Europe, North America and on islands in the Caribbean. It is much less prevalent in South and Central America, Asia and Africa.

Risk factors such as obesity, smoking and diet are lifestyle choices that can be changed with education and awareness. The risk of prostate cancer increases with age.


More often than not, there are no symptoms during the early stages of prostate cancer. It is not until the more advanced stages of the disease that symptoms begin to surface and even then, not all men experience the same signs and indicators. Due to the prostate gland’s proximity to the urethra and bladder, many prostate cancer signs are related to urination, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. If there is a growing tumor, added pressure and constriction to the urethra may result, depending on its size and location. This will cause discomfort and difficulty urinating – one of the telltale signs of the cancer. Burning sensations, frequent urges to urinate, slow or weakened flows when urinating and problems controlling the bladder are often associated as well.

More signs of prostate cancer include blood in the urine, erectile dysfunction and painful ejaculation. If the cancer metastasizes – spreads – to other bones or tissue, additional symptoms may be swelling in the pelvic area, pain or numbness in the legs, hips and even feet, stiffness in the lower back and pain in the bones that will not go away. Awareness and education are important for understanding prostate cancer risk factors and symptoms.

Common misconceptions

In some cases, non-cancerous prostate conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia, also known as BPH, and prostatitis can cause symptoms similar to those of prostate cancer. Despite common misconception, the PCF clarifies that these non-cancerous conditions are not linked to an increased risk of developing the disease. No evidence thus far has drawn any connection. BPH is an enlargement of the prostate. The condition squeezes the urethra, making urination painful and difficult for men. This strain and discomfort in the urethra also occurs from the presence of a tumor, hence the common misconception.

Prostatitis – the most common cause of urinary tract infections in men – creates a burning sensation that makes it painful to urinate. Other symptoms include chills and fever. Although it is not always curable, it is always treatable. While several studies have shown a link between an inflammation of the prostate and the disease, the PCF reports that this is still an area of controversy. It has been concluded that this may just be a result of simply having the prostate symptoms and thus, being screened for cancer.

If you or a loved one experience any of the symptoms of prostate cancer or another non-cancerous condition, you should consult with your doctor or physician.

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