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Prostate Cancer

What Causes Prostate Cancer?

Last modified: 
23/04/2012 - 16:14

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

The exact causes of prostate cancer are unknown. However, research aimed at understanding how cancer cells start to grow and spread may indicate some contributing factors. These factors include:

Testosterone

Testosterone, the male hormone, does not cause prostate cancer but is known to feed its growth. Therefore, some prostate cancer treatments are aimed at blocking the body's production of testosterone.

Age

Men over age 50 are at risk for prostate cancer and risk increases with age. As studies into aging continue, scientists may find that the aging process produces biochemical reactions that contribute to abnormal cell growth. This is an area of intense research.

Heredity

If a man's father or an older sibling has had prostate cancer, he is at increased risk. Also, African American men are at increased risk.

Scientists are looking at genes that may be responsible for inherited prostate cancer. The genes under investigation are called Hereditary Prostate Cancer Genes 1 and 2 (HPC1, HPC2) and HPCX.

It is not yet known to what degree these genes are responsible for prostate cancer. It may be that genetically acquired prostate cancer develops differently than cancer from other causes, but more research into this theory is needed.

Genetics

Researchers are finding that genetic flaws are responsible for many cancers. Recent research has shown that a genetic defect may keep some men from developing a certain enzyme. This enzyme could mount a defense against cells vulnerable to cancer-causing agents in the environment.

Diet

Some studies have found that a diet high in animal fat may increase a man's risk for developing prostate cancer, while a diet high in fruits and vegetables (especially tomato-based products) may decrease the risk.

Nice To Know:

A few studies suggested that having a vasectomy (a sterilization procedure in which the tubes that transport sperm cells are cut and tied, so that a man cannot make a woman pregnant) might increase a man's risk for prostate cancer. However, most studies do not support this finding.

Nice To Know:

Prostate Enlargement

An enlarged prostate (a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia) does not necessary lead to or predict prostate cancer. However, men with BPH need to be extra vigilant for prostate cancer since enlargement may, in some cases, be a sign of prostate cancer.

For further information about prostate enlargement, go to Prostate Enlargement.

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.