Causes of Prostate Cancer
Causes of prostate cancer are not known, but experts have identified certain risk factors. Like other cancers, prostate cancer is believed to develop in two steps. During step one, the cells are exposed to factors, such as viruses or toxins, which cause or trigger the unusual or uncontrolled cell growth. During step two, other factors such as diet, hormones, lifestyle and environmental influences promote the growth and development of the abnormal cells and could be causes of prostate cancer.
Certain factors such as age, ethnicity and genetics cannot be influenced however there are a number of lifestyle, nutrition and other factors that can form part of a program to help both prevent prostate cancer and to maximize your recovery and long term wellness in the event you are diagnosed with the disease. Maintaining maximum prostate health is about both reducing your risk factors as well as providing your body with maximum immunity through preventative wellness.
Just being on the planet for 65 years or longer is considered to be the strongest risk factor for causes of prostate cancer. That’s the age group in which more than 60 percent of prostate cancers show up. (American Cancer Society) Since there’s nothing you can do about this risk factor, concentrate on those that you can control such as lifestyle, nutrition and exercise as well as maintaining a positive, stress and toxin free environment as well as other factors.
Compared with white men, African-American men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer in their early 50s and twice as likely to die of the disease. (American Cancer Society) They are also more likely to be in an advanced stage of the disease when diagnosed. (Winterich 2009) On the other end of the spectrum, Asian-Americans and Hispanic/Latino men are less likely to develop prostate cancer than are non-Hispanic white men. (American Cancer Society)
What makes African American men so susceptible to prostate cancer? There are several possible reasons:
- Genetics: Differences in the androgen (male hormone) receptor genes related to the prostate may play a role. (Platz 2000)
- Environment: Blacks living in Africa have a lower rate of prostate cancer and death related to prostate cancer than do African-Americans. This gives researchers reason to suggest that African-Americans may be exposed to dietary habits, chemicals, or other factors which, when combined with genetic changes, increase the risk for prostate cancer among African-Americans compared to white men.
- Medical care: Prostate cancers are less likely to be detected in the early stages among African-Americans because research shows they are generally less likely to have health insurance and have less access to health care.
- Mistrust: Research has shown that African-American men are less trustful of their physicians than are white men, less likely to see the same doctor each time they go a visit or care, and less likely to be screened for prostate cancer. (Carpenter 2009)
If your father or brother had or has prostate cancer, you are more than twice as likely to develop the disease. Your risk is ever greater if you have more than one close relative with prostate cancer. (American Cancer Society). Research shows that approximately 10% of prostate cancer cases are hereditary.
Prostate cancer is caused by changes in the DNA of healthy prostate cells. DNA makes up genes and is inherited from one’s parents. About 5 to 10 percent of prostate cancers are linked to these inherited changes, while other changes in DNA occur during a man’s lifetime. Several gene mutations have been found to be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, including one called HPC1 (Hereditary Prostate Cancer Gene 1). Researchers have also found some inherited genes that may increase the risk of prostate cancer, but they are believed to account for only a small percentage of cases. (American Cancer Society)
Half of prostate cancers have a genomic rearrangement that causes two genes called TMPRSS2 and ERG to fuse together. This genetic fusion, which is believed to trigger the development of prostate cancer, occurs in about half of prostate cancers. Researchers are working on a way to target this genetic anomaly with a new class of anticancer drugs. (Brenner 2011)
Men who typically consume foods that promote inflammation and contain cancer-promoting substances; that is, a high-fat diet, lots of red meat, and one that is low in fiber, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer than men who do not eat these foods. Calcium, dairy and other foods and additives have also been linked to a higher risk of prostate cancer and men whose diets are low in certain nutrients and foods such as lycopene, omega 3, vitamin D, antioxidants and other cancer killers have also been shown to have a higher risk of prostate cancer. In addition, according to the World Health Organization “diet might influence prostate cancer risk by affecting hormone levels.”
Men who are physically inactive are more likely to develop prostate cancer and other prostate disease. A study published in November 2009 reported that men who regularly engaged in moderate exercise appeared to have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. (Antonelli 2009) More on exercise and prostate cancer
Exposure to chemicals is possibly one of the causes of proste cancer. Studies show that men who work in certain occupations (e.g., tire plant workers, farmers, painters) are more likely to get prostate cancer. This is believed to be related to their exposure to chemicals. A 2009 study, for example, found a two-fold increased risk of prostate cancer among farmers who were exposed to pesticides compared with farmers who were not exposed. (Parent 2009) It’s also been estimated that 90 percent of people in the United States have detectable levels of BPA toxin in their bodies. BPA has been associated with various health problems, including an increased risk of cancer, including prostate cancer.
Research indicates that elevated levels of the male hormone testosterone may be a risk factor and one of the causes of prostate cancer, as this hormone is part of the process in encouraging prostate growth. However, while testosterone has a major role in prostate cancer, it is an imbalance of hormones—including testosterone—and not the hormone alone that is of the most concern in the development of prostate cancer. More on Prostate Cancer and Testosterone
The presence of inflammation as a risk factor is a relatively new theory. Inflammation may contribute to the development of prostate cancer by damaging cellular DNA and encouraging normal prostate cells to become cancerous. (American Cancer Society) In fact, an increasing amount of research points to the major role inflammation plays not only in causes of prostate cancer but other serious diseases as well.
Most health experts agree that obesity is linked to prostate cancer and can have an impact in several areas, yet they are not sure why this is so. Some possible reasons are that obese men tend to have lower testosterone levels, higher (or relatively so) estrogen levels, elevated levels of insulin-growth factor (which might spur the cancer on), and greater amounts of saturated fats in their diet (which can encourage cancer growth). Men who are overweight also are more likely to have type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, both of which may be associated with prostate cancer.
Here is what some of the research tells us:
- Recent studies suggest that men who are overweight or obese at the time of diagnosis may experience a more aggressive form of prostate cancer and/or have a greater risk of having the cancer spread beyond the prostate. (Gong 2007)
- A 2009 study published in the journal Cancer evaluated more than 1,400 men who had prostate cancer and then had their prostates removed. The men who were obese were more likely to experience a recurrence of the cancer. This was true for both white and black men. (Jayachadnran 2009)
- Duke University Medical School researchers examined the records of 2,302 men who were having their prostates removed and found that men who were obese tended to have more aggressive cancers and larger tumors. (Freedland 2009)
- Researchers from a study in the Netherlands looked at 252 men who had their prostates removed and found that men who were obese were more likely to suffer from urinary incontinence (inability to hold their urine) and strictures (abnormal narrowing) than were men who were not obese. (van Roermund 2009)
- A 2007 study published in Cancer reported that obese men were 3.6 times more likely to experience a spread of their cancer and 2.6 times more likely to die of prostate cancer than were men of normal weight. (Gong 2007) Then again, other studies have not found a link between obesity and the risk of dying or prostate cancer. (Davies 2009)
- In a study presented at the 2010 American Urology Association’s annual meeting researchers at Henry Ford Hospital evaluated 3,327 men who had had their prostate glands removed via robotic prostatectomy. The investigators reported that men who have the highest body mass index (BMI) have the largest prostate tumors. Read more about BMI
Several prestigious research organizations, namely the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, found that consuming too much calcium in foods and/or supplements is a probable risk factor for prostate cancer. (Itsiopoulos 2009). Red meat and dairy consumption has also been linked to a higher risk of prostate cancer.
American Cancer Society on Causes of Prostate Cancer
Brenner JC et al. Mechanistic rationale for inhibition of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase in ETS gene fusion-positive prostate cancer. Cancer Cell 2011 May 17; 19(5): 664-78 Causes of Prostate Cancer