According to the American National Cancer Institute, after skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men, and 1-in-7 will be diagnosed with it during their lifetime. This is quite the troubling statistic, especially since many men still don’t even know where in their body the prostate is.
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is located under the bladder, at the base of the penis. It is a vital part of the reproductive system and its function is to assure the arrival of the sperm into the vagina. It does that by producing an alkaline fluid that protects the spermatozoa from the acidic conditions in the cervix.
While age is the number-1 risk factor when it comes to prostate cancer, there are several other key factors that can raise and lower the risks. Here are the 10 most important ones every man should know.
1. Family History
If your 1st-degree relative was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the past, your risk factor is nearly double that of a person without a family history of prostate cancer. Just like how heart diseases can be hereditary, so does prostate cancer, according to a study from 2000.
2. Excess Weight
Being overweight increases your risk of developing various forms of cancer, including prostate cancer. Overweight and obese men are also at risk for developing a more aggressive form of prostate cancer, according to a study from the San Diego Naval Medical Center.
3. Frequency of Sexual Activity in Early Ages
A study published by the international BJU Magazine found that the more a 20-30 year-old male masturbates, the more likely he is to develop prostate cancer. Researchers believe it is caused by elevated levels of testosterone, which rises the more sexually active a young man is.
4. Frequency of Sexual Activity in Men Over 50
On the other hand, the more frequently 50-year-olds engage in sexual activities, the less likely are they to develop prostate cancer, according to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Lab tests found that the biochemical composition of sperm changes when a man engages in intercourse versus masturbation, and that change significantly affects the risk of prostate cancer. Researchers suggest that intercourse stimulates the prostate to remove toxins that masturbation does not.
5. Frequency of Exercise
How much time you spend in the gym can directly affect the likeliness of you developing prostate cancer. A Harvard University study found that moderate physical exercise provides a boost to the immune system, encouraging it to produce “hunter cells” and protective chemicals that battle cancerous cells. In addition, it is speculated that burning fat also decreases prostate cancer risks.
6. Previous Dealings with Cancer
Men who suffered from other forms of cancer in the past are more likely to develop prostate cancer. Studies found that men who suffered from cancer in the kidneys, bladder, lungs, thyroid and skin cancers are at a much higher risk group to develop prostate cancer.
Suffering from infections or prostatitis can increase your chances of contracting prostate cancer. According to a University of Michigan study, men who had gonorrhea or syphilis are more likely to develop prostate cancer, especially in chronic cases. It’s important to mention that these findings are still inconclusive, and another assumption is that men who suffer from STDs get checked more often, thus increasing the chances of diagnosing a preexisting condition.
Even though one glass of wine per day is good for your heart, drinking hard liquor more than 5 times a week doubles the risk of developing prostate cancer, according to a University of California study. It is still not clear how alcohol increases the risk factor, but researchers suggest that it interrupts the body’s natural DNA repair mechanisms.
9. A Calcium-Rich Diet
Researchers are still not sure how our eating habits affect prostate cancer risks, but several studies have found that a calcium-rich diet increases the risk of prostate cancer. Men between the ages of 19 and 70 are advised not to consume more than 1,000mg of calcium a day, and men over 71 should limit themselves to 1,200mg per day. It is also highly recommended not to consume more than 2,000mg per day.
A Harvard School of Public Health study found that men who went through a vasectomy have a 10% increase in their risk to develop prostate cancer. In addition, the earlier in life the procedure was performed, the higher the risk. It is important to note that the American Urologist Association objects to these findings.
So What Can You Do to Minimize the Risks?
Most of the risk factors are genetic, and it is still impossible to change one’s genetic makeup. However, if you maintain a healthy diet, you can significantly decrease your chances of developing prostate cancer.
It is highly advisable for men over 40 to get a checkup every year, and even more often if you’re in one of the aforementioned risk groups.