By Virginia Carnahan, APR, CPRC
Director of Development
Just Who Gets Prostate Cancer?Most people are surprised to learn that more men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year than women are diagnosed with breast cancer! Think about that for a moment. How many women do you know who have battled breast cancer? Seems like every family, every neighborhood, every group of friends has at least one breast cancer story. Women who fought and won; women who fought and lost. Famous women – names we all know.
And yet there are more men among us who have learned they have prostate cancer. Statistics from the National Cancer Institutes (a division of the National Institutes of Health) predict that 1 in every 8 American women will be found to have breast cancer sometime in her life. The NCI/NIH number for men learning they have prostate cancer is 1 in 6. Do the math.
We don’t hear as much about prostate cancer because men just don’t talk about their personal issues. Also, men don’t have a vocal and visible spokesperson for prostate cancer like Susan G. Komen became for breast cancer. Much of the education about breast cancer in the last two decades was a result of the Komen family’s efforts which began more than 25 years ago.
There are men out there who have openly shared their prostate cancer diagnoses: Robert DeNiro, Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, Bob Dole, Arnold Palmer, Don Imus, Harry Belafonte, John Kerry, Nelson Mandella, Joe Torre, Roger Moore, Charlton Heston, Dennis Hopper, Sir Alec Guinness, James Brown and many more. Prostate cancer is not very selective; if you have a prostate you have a chance of developing prostate cancer.
We don’t know exactly why some men develop this disease. It is believed by some to be just part of the natural aging of the prostate gland. Something in the DNA triggers the prostate cells to “go wonky,” and to become highly undifferentiated, to begin to grow wildly and to beat a path of escape outside the gland, on to the bones and organs throughout the body. In addition, we know that some situations and environmental factors can encourage the growth of malignant cells. Men who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War stand a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer – and to develop a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer. Men who have a family history of prostate cancer stand a greater chance of developing it, and African Americans have a higher risk of the disease, too.
It is believed that diets high in red meat, processed foods, dairy products and sugars can contribute to development of prostate cancer (as well as other cancers). Stress, air pollution, lack of sleep – etc. may play a role in this disease.
If you venture onto the World Wide Web, you can find lots of material about prostate cancer. Some is very good; some is plain awful and untrue. One must be very discriminating in deciding what to believe of internet information. Make sure it comes from a reputable source and can be verified by publication in respected medical journals.
In researching material for this article I came across a site: “Six Weird Clues to Prostate Cancer Risk.” Of course I had to read this one! Here are a couple of the little jewels (most likely fake, of course) that I found:
• Men whose index finger is longer than his ring finger are 33% less likely to develop prostate cancer
• Men who start losing hair by age 20 are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer
• Men who father only girls may be 60% more likely to have prostate cancer
• Taller men (taller than what?) have a 19% greater chance of developing prostate cancer
• American Men who live north of 40 degrees latitude (such as Philadelphia, PA; Columbus, OH; or Provo, UT) have the highest risk of dying from prostate cancer.
So there you go. It pretty much boils down to the luck of being born male, your environment and diet growing up, the professions you end up in as an adult and your lifestyles. Wish there was better news but at this point there’s not much.
While you have very little choice in whether or not you will develop this disease or not, you can have a major impact on whether you will survive it. The biggest thing you can do is educate yourself and commit to regular, annual PSA and digital screening exams. If you find this disease early, it is highly curable. The tricky part is that there are rarely any symptoms when the disease is early.
My suggestion is to take a hint from the breast cancer crusaders. Every time you hear about women needing annual mammograms, take it to heart and go get your own life-saving screening for prostate cancer! Man up – your life may depend on it.
If you would like to learn more about prostate cancer, contact us for a copy of “The Dattoli Blue Ribbon Prostate Cancer Solution.” 941-365-5599