As the second-leading cancer-related death for men in the United States, prostate cancer is slow-growing, difficult to detect, and possibly fatal (though not likely). The disease seems to run in some families, which inspires many people to pursue prostate cancer genetic testing. Whether you know for a fact prostate cancer runs in your family or you’re completely in the dark about your genetic history, a prostate cancer DNA analysis is a great way to figure out what your odds are – and what sort of preventative measures you might be able to take against them.
What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer occurs in the small walnut-shaped gland that produces sperm-transporting seminal fluid – a.k.a., the prostate. The region’s cells will begin to grow abnormally and out of control, leaving the body vulnerable to tumors and more serious infections. The disease can either spread slowly or aggressively, depending on which stage it gets to and how quickly it’s caught. When caught early, there’s a good chance prostate cancer can be effectively treated. But if caught too late, things could get fatal. Most forms of prostate cancer are adenocarcinomas: they develop from the prostate’s gland cells. However, other iterations of the disease exist too, like: small cell carcinomas, neuroendocrine tumors, transitional carcinomas, or sarcomas. Among the types of prostate cancers are levels of abnormal cell growth, ranging from benign prostatic hyperplasia (benign growths that don’t spread to nearby tissue or other regions of the body) to cancerous growths (abnormal cells that have metastasized to nearby organs and tissues). If you think you might be susceptible to prostate cancer, you should definitely pursue a prostate cancer DNA analysis so you can keep the best odds against eventual cancerous growth development.
The main symptoms of prostate cancer
An unnerving detail about prostate cancer is that it is often symptomless – especially in the earliest stages of the disease. Because of this, it’s difficult to diagnose (and equally difficult to catch prematurely). This is another big reason to consult prostate cancer genetic testing. However, in some cases, prostate cancer can be somewhat easily identified by a few different symptoms:
- Difficulty urinating
- Weak, interrupted urination flow
- Trouble entirely emptying the bladder
- Urinating more often than normal
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Back, hips, or pelvis pain that doesn’t go away
- Pain during ejaculation
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
- Unintentional weight loss
Is prostate cancer hereditary?
As we mentioned earlier, prostate cancer can run in the family. And although many cases of the disease are found in men without any genetic history of it, having a father or brother with a prostate cancer past more than doubles your risk of developing it. The risk is even higher for men who have multiple relatives with a history of prostate cancer – especially if those relatives developed the disease at a young age. In general, the two gene mutations that tend to most often result in prostate cancer are the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and Lynch syndrome (a medical condition caused by inherited gene changes).
Other causes of prostate cancer
When wondering, “Is prostate cancer hereditary?”, the answer is: sometimes. But there are a few other reasons you might want to consult prostate cancer genetic testing or a prostate cancer DNA analysis that have nothing to do with genetics. Here are some of the main other possible causes of prostate cancer – a.k.a., things to keep an eye on or avoid in order to lower your odds of developing the disease:
- Chemical exposures
There is some scientific evidence revealing that exposure to certain chemicals might increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. Firefighters seem particularly susceptible to the disease – based on the harsh chemicals they’re often privy to – and a few studies have linked the Vietnam War-era exposure to Agent Orange to prostate cancer.
- Prostate inflammation
Other medical studies have looked into prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) as a possible cause of prostate cancer. This theory continues to be actively researched today.
Smoking might slightly increase one’s risk of dying from prostate cancer, but a lot of research still needs to be conducted on the topic.
Unhealthy, unbalanced diets tend to be linked to a variety of cancers, and prostate cancer is no exception. Men who eat copious amounts of dairy – and a lot of calcium – seem to have higher risks of developing the disease. While a fair amount of dairy can be good for you, too much may have lethal effects.
Men who are obese tend to have a higher risk of getting more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, but the details of this still need to be looked into.
- Sexually transmitted infections
Some sexually transmitted infections cause prostate inflammation, and researchers have linked this to eventual prostate cancer development. However, no conclusions have been reached on this theory quite yet.
A few conducted medical studies have explored the connection between vasectomies and prostate cancer, but the idea needs to be researched a little more extensively.
- Older age
Risk of any type of cancer increases with age – and once a man is over 50, he is somewhat more susceptible to developing prostate cancer.
Is prostate cancer hereditary? Sometimes – and in a few cases, development can be more or less likely depending on the person’s race. More research needs to be conducted in this arena as well, but prostate cancer risk seems to be higher with some ethnicities compared to others – particularly the Black community. For Black men, the disease also tends to be more often developed in stronger, more aggressive ways.
Prostate cancer prevention techniques
There are a few treatment plans available to prevent the development of prostate cancer, and to reverse its effects in order to save someone’s life. However, there are also a few techniques you can implement earlier in life to prevent the disease’s risk entirely. More research needs to be conducted to reveal how effective each of these methods really are, but in the meantime, it’s worth adding these to your daily routine if you think you might be at risk (especially if you’ve done prostate cancer genetic testing or a prostate cancer DNA analysis):
- Improve your diet.
More research still needs to be done on the effects of diet and cancer, but existing studies suggest that a consciously healthy diet tends to be a strong fighter of the disease. There are a few different recognized ways for lowering prostate cancer risk with your diet:
- Reduce your fat intake. Eat less trans fats and saturated fats, and opt for more unsaturated fats.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Up your leafy greens, and introduce a wide variety of produce into your daily diet. Tomatoes in particular seem to be effective in the fight against prostate cancer (thanks to the high amounts of antioxidant lycopene they contain), and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli contain cancer-fighting compound sulforaphane.
- Avoid fried or grilled meat. Meat cooked at higher temperatures might produce a chemical compound that could lead to prostate cancer.
- Incorporate green tea or soy into your diet. These two products might lower a man’s risk for prostate cancer, according to some available studies.
- Increase your vitamin D intake.
Many people don’t get enough vitamin D – and for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer, this sort of deficiency might be detrimental. In order to prevent eventual development, focus on increasing your vitamin D intake with supplements; 10 minutes of sun per day; or foods like cod liver oil, dried shiitake mushrooms, and wild salmon.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Since obesity might lead to a higher risk of developing prostate cancer, maintaining a healthy weight is a good way to battle this possibility. If you’re overweight, establishing a healthy and sustainable weight loss plan will help increase your odds against prostate cancer – and if you’re already at a healthy weight, just make sure you maintain it (and are also enjoying a nutritious and diverse diet).
- Exercise regularly.
Exercising regularly goes hand in hand with healthy weight maintenance, as studies have revealed that a healthy level of activity is a powerful natural cancer battler. Exercise is generally known for improving immune function, reducing inflammation, and increasing blood circulation – all of which are great for staying healthy and well.
- Keep smoking and drinking to a minimum.
Smoking is known for increasing general risks of cancer, and alcohol is known for its inflammatory effects. Keeping both vices to a bare minimum will help you ward off prostate cancer.
- Remain sexually active.
A couple of studies revealed that men who have a higher ejaculation frequency (whether with company or alone) are up to two-thirds less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. The research is ongoing, but so far, experts have deduced that frequent ejaculation rids the bodies of toxins and fights against inflammation.