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Men not immune to many forms of cancer

Health advice

POSTED: October 11, 2007 5:03 a.m.
There are more than 100 different types of cancer in the United States and men have a 50 percent chance of developing some type of the disease during their lifetime.
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men and it is the second leading cause of death from cancer in men after lung cancer. More than 218,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the US. The American Cancer Society estimates 27,050 men in the United States will die of prostate cancer in 2007. Prostate cancer accounts for about 9 percent of cancer-related deaths but when prostate cancer is found and treated early, the survival rate is very high.
Prostate cancer is a malignancy that develops from the cells of the prostate gland. The prostate is a male sex gland about the size of a walnut, and is located below the bladder. While the cause of prostate cancer is unknown, it is known that the growth of cancer cells in the prostate, like those of normal prostate cells, are stimulated by male hormones.  
Compared with other types of cancer, prostate cancer is relatively slow growing. A man with prostate cancer may live for many years without knowing he has prostate cancer. In fact, most men with prostate cancer do not die from it but with it.  As a man gets older, his risk of developing prostate cancer increases. More than 70 percent of prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over 65 years of age. Prostate cancer detected in younger men tends to be more aggressive and early detection makes treatment more likely to be successful.
The causes of prostate cancer are not completely understood and physicians can’t explain why one man gets prostate cancer and another does not. Studies have found that the following risk factors are associated with prostate cancer:
• Age: In the United States, prostate cancer is found mainly in men over age 55. The average age of patients at the time of diagnosis is 70.
• Family history of prostate cancer — The risk of developing prostate cancer doubles if a man’s father or brother has been diagnosed with the disease.
• Race — This disease is much more common in African American men than in white men. It is less common in Asian and American Indian men.
• Diet and dietary factors — Men who eat high-fat diets, particularly saturated fat, may have a greater chance of developing prostate cancer.
Symptoms may not be evident in the early stages of prostate cancer but prostate cancer can cause any of these problems:
• A need to urinate frequently, especially at night;
• Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine;
• Inability to urinate;
• Weak or interrupted flow of urine;
• Painful or burning urination;
• Difficulty in having an erection;
• Painful ejaculation;
• Blood in urine or semen; or
• Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.
The above symptoms may be caused by cancer or by other, less serious health problems, such as BPH or an infection. A man who has the above risk factors and/or any of these symptoms should see his physician or a urologist to see if he should be screened for prostate cancer (even if he does not have any symptoms). The physician may suggest the tests listed below as a means to check for prostate abnormalities.  And while these tests do not show whether the abnormalities are cancer or not, the doctor will take the results into account in deciding whether to check the patient further for signs of prostate cancer.
• Digital rectal exam — the doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum and feels the prostate through the rectal wall to check for hard or lumpy areas.
• Blood test for prostate-specific antigen — a lab measures the levels of PSA in a blood sample. The level of PSA may rise in men who have prostate cancer, BPH, or infection in the prostate.
Men, ages 50 and older, should discuss the need for regular prostate-specific antigen testing and digital rectal exams with their health care providers.
Younger men at high risk, such as African-Americans or men who have a family history of prostate cancer, should discuss the need for an annual digital rectal exam and PSA blood test before they reach the age of 45. African-American men with a family history of prostate cancer should begin testing at an earlier age.
 

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