What You Should Know About Prostate Cancer

Some things can increase your chances of getting prostate cancer.

photo of older man

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and the second-leading cause of cancer death in American men. So, what should you know about prostate cancer? 

Katie Murray, DO, a urologic oncologist at University of Missouri Health Care’s Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, explains common risk factors and screening recommendations.

Katie Murray, DO
Katie Murray, DO

Age

People 65 and older are at an increased risk for prostate cancer. Murray said about six of 10 new prostate cancers are found in men in this age range.

Family history

Your chances of getting prostate cancer are higher if other men in your family — first-degree relatives such as a brother or father — have had it. If a relative was diagnosed when younger than 65 or if multiple men in your family have had it, your risk of prostate cancer is higher, Murray said.

Race

Prostate cancer is more common among African-American men than men of other races. African-American men also have a greater chance of having an aggressive form of prostate cancer. However, white men are more likely to get prostate cancer than Hispanics or Asian-Americans, Murray said.

Lifestyle

It is unclear if smoking increases the risk of prostate cancer, Murray said, but it might lead to more aggressive tumors that form, spread and grow quickly. There are no known dietary supplements that reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Screening recommendations 

A prostate cancer screening test is performed by taking a sample of your blood and testing it for the prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a substance produced by the prostate gland. If your PSA level is high, further tests will be conducted to learn if you might have prostate cancer. It’s important to know an elevated PSA levels does not mean you have prostate cancer.

Because the PSA test is a blood test, there are some risks associated with the procedure such as bleeding or pain. Murray suggests that men should talk to their doctors about whether, and when, to be screened. This conversation can happen with your primary care doctor or urologist, if you have one. 

The American Urological Association suggests the below screening guidelines:

  • PSA screening is not recommended for men younger than 40. 
  • For men who do not have any risk factors, screening is not recommended in men ages 40-54. 
  • Men should discuss the benefits and risks associated with PSA screening beginning at age 55. 
  • Starting at age 70, screening recommendations are dependent upon your health. For men in excellent health, talk with your physician to decide if a PSA screening is a good choice. For older men in poor health, a PSA screening is generally not considered necessary.
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