Prostate Cancer – Overview and Risk Factors

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and second only to lung cancer in cancer related deaths among men in the United States. Sometimes this cancer can be small, slow growing and present limited risk to the patient while at other times it can progress rapidly presenting great health risks. Yet, when prostate cancer is detected in its early states, it can be effectively treated and cured. Therefore, it is advisable for men to have an annual medical check-up in order to examine their prostate’s size, texture, and general functioning.

The prostate is a part of the male reproductive system and is about the size and shape of a walnut; and is located between the bladder and the base of the penis. The urethra – the tube that carries urine from the bladder and semen from the sex glands out through the penis – runs through the centre of the prostate. That is why any disease or condition that increases the size of the prostate or causes inflammation can lead to urinary problems as the enlarged prostate can squeeze the urethra thus affecting the flow of urine.

One major function of the prostate is to lubricate the ejaculation process (by making and adding fluids to semen and other seminal fluids) and to increase the pH making the vagina more hospitable, and therefore more conducive for fertilization. It produces prostatic fluid when the man is aroused and contracts during ejaculation to empty.

Normally body cells grow, divide, and produce more cells as needed to keep the body healthy. However, sometimes the process goes wrong – cells become abnormal and form more cells in an uncontrolled way. These extra cells form a mass of tissue, called a growth or tumour. Tumours can however be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Thus prostate cancer occurs when a malignant tumour form in the tissue of the prostate. In its early state, it needs the male hormone, testosterone to grow and survive.

Also, sometimes, cancer cells break away from the malignant tumour in the prostate and enter the bloodstream or the lymphatic system and travel to other organs in the body. When cancer spreads from its original location in the prostate to another part of the body such as the bone, it is called metastatic Prostate Protocol prostate cancer, not bone cancer. Often the appearance of the cancer cell provides a clue to indicate if it is programmed to be slow growing and relatively harmless or more aggressive and lethal.

However other medical problems can equally affect the prostate. Among these medical problems is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia BPH (often called benign prostatic hypertrophy) which is a noncancerous enlargement of the prostrate, a condition that becomes increasingly common as men age. This can result in urinary problems, including urinary tract obstruction. The second is Prostatitis, also a noncancerous inflammation of the prostate which can cause burning sensations during urination. Clinically important prostate cancers can be defined as those that threaten the well-being or life span of a man.

Prevalence of Prostate Cancer

It is predominately a disease of elderly men and is one of the most common types of cancer among American men. Cancerous cells are likely to be found in the prostates of 22% of men age 50-59, in 37% of men 60-79, and in more than half (53%) of those living to 80 and older. The disease rarely occurs in men younger than forty years of age.

Globally, it ranks third in cancer incidence and sixth in cancer mortality among men. However, there are marked geographical and ethnic variations in the incidence and mortality of clinical prostate cancer. The risk is highest in North America and northern European countries, and lowest in Japan and other Asian countries and intermediate in regions of Central America and Western Africa. The differences in occurrence may partly be accounted for either by the differences in screening for prostate cancer and the risk of other diseases among world regions or more likely by genetic predisposition as well as diet and other environmental factors.

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