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What You Need to Know About Diet and Prostate Cancer

10 anti-cancer nutrition tips for men (and the women who love them)
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

In many ways, prostate cancer is to men what breast cancer is to women. It's the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men (after lung cancer). And the older men get, the higher the frequency of the disease.

Health experts estimate that nearly three out of every 10 men in their 50s have prostate cancer, compared with about seven out of 10 men 80 or older. This may seem like good news for younger men -- prostate cancer develops slowly, and is uncommon before age 50. But the fact that it does develop slowly behooves younger men to do whatever they can to help prevent it. And the fact that prostate cancer often doesn't have noticeable symptoms behooves men 50 and up to get annual checkups and testing.

September is Prostate Cancer Month, so this is a great time to take a few minutes to learn more about this cancer and the dietary steps we can take to reduce our risk.

Prostate Cancer Basics

Where is the Prostate?

The walnut-sized gland below a man's bladder is the prostate. Its function is to produce semen.

How do they screen for Prostate Cancer?

Health care providers test for a substance called prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in blood samples because PSA levels rise as prostate cancer progresses (although higher levels can also be due to infection or enlargement of the gland). Men should have annual PSA tests beginning at age 50, or 45 if they are considered at higher risk. Rectal examinations are also used to detect prostate changes. Annual digital rectal exams are also encouraged beginning at age 50 (45 for those at higher risk). If any problems are discovered (and rest assured that most prostate problems are not cancer), an ultrasound test and biopsy may be done to look for cancer cells.

Who has the highest prostate cancer rates?

Black Americans have the highest prostate cancer rates in the world, while the disease is rare in Asia, Africa, and South America. Prostate cancer is most common in North America and Northwestern Europe.

What are the symptoms?

  • Need to urinate frequently, especially at night.
  • Sense of urgency to urinate, but difficulty starting.
  • Painful urination.
  • Inability to urinate or weak or interrupted flow.
  • Blood in urine.
  • Continuing pain in the lower back, pelvis, or upper thigh.

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have prostate cancer, but it's wise to see a doctor if you notice any of them.

What's the survival rate?

When the cancer hasn't spread outside the prostate (and most don't), the five-year survival rate is nearly 100%. For all stages of the disease combined, the survival rate is 93%.

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