Prostate cancer develops in a man’s prostate, the walnut-sized gland just below the bladder that produces some of the fluid in semen. It is the most common cancer in men after skin cancer. It often grows very slowly and may not cause significant harm. But some types are more aggressive and can spread quickly without treatment.
Early Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
In the early stages, men may have no symptoms. Later, symptoms can include:
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Difficulty starting or stopping urination
- Weak or interrupted urinary stream
- Painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
Advanced cancer can cause deep pain in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.
Enlarged Prostate or Prostate Cancer?
The prostate can grow larger as men age, sometimes pressing on the bladder or urethra and causing symptoms similar to prostate cancer. This is called benign prostatic hyperplasia. It is not cancer and can be treated if symptoms become bothersome. A third problem that can cause urinary symptoms is prostatitis. This inflammation or infection may also cause a fever and in many cases is treated with medication.
Risk Factors You Can’t Control
Growing older is the greatest risk factor, particularly after age 50. After age 70, studies suggest that anywhere from 31% to 83% of men have some form of prostate cancer, though there may be no outward symptoms. Family history increases a man’s risk: having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles the risk. African-American men and Caribbean men of African descent are at high risk and have the highest rate in the world.
Diet seems to play a role in the development of prostate cancer, which is much more common in countries where meat and high-fat dairy are mainstays. The reason for this link is unclear. Dietary fat, particularly animal fat from red meat, may boost male hormone levels and this may fuel the growth of cancerous prostate cells. A diet too low in fruits and vegetables may also play a role.