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Prostate Cancer

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland at the base of the bladder that encircles the urethra, the tube through which the urine is voided. The prostate produces prostatic fluid, which makes up the bulk of the male ejaculate and nourishes and transports the sperm. Cancer of the prostate gland is the second leading cause of cancer death among men. It is primarily a disease of aging.

Men in their thirties and forties rarely develop prostate cancer, but the incidence increases steadily after the age of fifty. Approximately 80 percent of all cases occur in men over the age of sixty-five, and by the age of eight, 80 percent of all men have prostate cancer to some degree.

A male baby born today has a 13 percent chance of developing prostate cancer at some time in his life, and a 3 percent chance of dying from the disease. Many experts feel that every man will eventually develop prostate cancer if he lives long enough. However, prostate cancer deaths have been declining for the past several years, which many experts believe to be the result of better screening and earlier diagnosis.

The exact cause or causes of prostate cancer are not known. However, there are certain risk factors that have been linked to its development. Men aged sixty-five and older, African-American men, and men who have a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) who prostate cancer are at increased risk.

Researchers have also found a link between a high-fat diet that is low in fruits and vegetables and prostate cancer. This may be due to the fact that heavy fat consumption raises testosterone levels, which could then stimulate growth of the prostate, including any cancer cells it may be harboring. Some studies have suggested that vasectomy may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer, although other studies contradict this hypothesis.

There is no known way to prevent this disease, but early detection can make it possible to catch the cancer before it spreads to other sites in the body. A careful digital rectal exam of the prostate is the simplest and most cost-effective approach for detecting prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that every man have an annual exam beginning at forty; the American Urological Association suggests beginning at age fifty.

A high-fat, low-fiber diet is linked not only to heart disease, but also to prostate cancer. Chemical reactions occur when fat is cooked, leading to the production of free radicals, which play a major role in certain cancers. It is logical to assume that the accelerating increase in prostate cancer since the 1950s must be attributable at least in part to a parallel increase in fat consumption in the United States.

Research has shown that soybeans and soy products, such as tofu, tempeh, soy flour, and soymilk, have cancer-fighting powers due to the presence of a protein called genistein.

Diet and nutrition are important not only for treatment, but for prevention. An anticancer diet is composed primarily of brown rice, fresh raw fruits and vegetables, fresh juices, legumes, raw nuts and seeds, and whole grains, and excludes alcohol, coffee, refined carbohydrates, and strong tea. Regular intake of zinc (50 milligrams a day) and essential fatty acids (in supplement form or from cold-pressed sesame, safflower, or olive oil) in later life also may help to prevent the development of problems.


The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 180,400 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed annually, and 31,900 men die from the disease each year.

According to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, men who eat red meat five times a week may have a risk of prostate cancer that is nearly three times higher than that for men who eat red meat less than once a week.

If the disease is caught while the cancer is still localized (confined to the prostate gland), the five-year survival rate is approximately 100 percent. If the cancer has spread beyond the prostate, however, it is difficult to treat and cure. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 58 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer, the cancer is localized, 31 percent has spread locally (in close vicinity of the prostate gland), and 11 percent has spread to other part of the body. If the cancer has spread locally, the survival rate over the next five years is about 94 percent.

A plant substance in green tea has been found by researchers at the Mayo Clinic to be a potent killer of prostate cancer cells. Many studies have been linked green tea consumption to a reduced risk for prostate cancer.

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