Prostate cancer might not get as much attention as other types of cancer, but it is as common in American men as breast cancer is in women. One in eight men in the U.S. will be diagnosed in their lifetime. As a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program®, I am highlighting the following information as we observe Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
An estimated 248,530 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2021 and 34,130 men will die from the disease. In Maryland alone, 5020 men will be diagnosed and 640 will die from this disease. Fortunately, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer will not die from it.
Symptoms, such as difficulty urinating, pain while urinating, weak urine flow or blood in the urine often don’t appear until the later stages of cancer. Knowing the risk factors can help determine if and when you should begin screening. Prostate cancer is most common in men 65 and older. Certain inherited genetic conditions, including Lynch syndrome and BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, also increase your risk, as does a family history of the disease. African American men are more likely to be diagnosed and more than twice as likely to die of the disease than white men. Prostate cancer also affects Black men at younger ages and is often in more advanced and severe stages when it is diagnosed. More research is needed to determine exactly why this disparity exists, but genetics and socioeconomic factors may play roles.
It’s important you participate in an informed decision-making process with your health care provider about whether or not to be screened for prostate cancer. If you have a prostate, are age 50 or older and at average risk, talk with your health care provider about the pros and cons of screening with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. Start this conversation at age 45 if you are a Black man or have a close relative who had prostate cancer before age 65. If you have several close relatives who were diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age, and you have a BRCA mutation, start this discussion at age 40. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood, and heightened levels may indicate cancer or may be affected by certain medical procedures, medications, an enlarged prostate or a prostate infection. Screening may detect cancers that are unlikely to be life-threatening and could lead to unnecessary treatment, but early detection of prostate cancer followed by prompt treatment can also save lives. Talk with your health care provider to decide if screening is right for you based on your age, family history and health.
Although many of these risk factors are beyond your control, smoking and excess body weight may increase your risk of aggressive disease. Don’t smoke, and quit if you do. Exercise regularly and eat a diet filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains to help you maintain a healthy weight. To learn more, visit www.preventcancer.org/prostatecancer.
Nicole Beus Harris is the spouse of Representative Andy Harris, M.D. Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).