FACTS: Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers among men. Fortunately, prostate cancer primarily impacts older men – and as many prostate cancers are slow-growing, monitoring and observation can often suffice until mortality arrives via senescence.
But even though prostate cancer is rare in younger men, those with close relatives who have had the disease – particularly at a young age – are at elevated risk, as are black men, whose incidence rate is up to 50% higher than Caucasians.
The exact causes of prostate cancer are unknown, though environment, diet, activity levels, and heredity undoubtedly contribute. (In fact, incident rates for blacks in Africa are substantially lower than rates in Western countries, suggesting a strong role for environmental and dietary factors.)
Physical warning signs of prostate cancer include urination difficulties such as increased frequency or difficulties starting or stopping, as well as the presence of blood in the urine. Pain in the back can also be indicative, if the cancer has spread.
Elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in blood tests can also provide a warning indicator before any symptoms occur. However, PSA levels can be affected by the non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate that many men experience as they age – as well as certain medications – so false positives and false negatives from testing are not uncommon. Where appropriate, follow-up biopsies can be performed to provide a more definitive diagnosis.
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