My sole purpose with the 4 Legs of Fitness model is to help people improve health and fitness to live happy lives. In this article I want to cover a very serious, relevant and partly sad topic: prostate cancer. One man in nine will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that there are over 190,000 new cases and over 30,000 deaths from prostate cancer in 2020 in the United States alone. This makes prostate cancer the most common cancer (next to skin cancer).
I want to help improve this. One way is this article. Another is that I joined the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, which is a campaign uniting motorcycle riders all over the world to raise funds and awareness for prostate cancer research and men’s mental health (supported by Movember).
In this article I discuss what is prostate cancer, causes and risk factors, symptoms, treatment options and most importantly a bunch of recommendations to actually prevent this disease in the first place.
What Is Prostate Cancer?
Only men have a prostate gland. It is a small organ located just under the bladder. It’s regulated by testosterone and it’s main function is the production of semen. Hence, pretty essential. If a tumor forms in the prostate, it’s referred to as prostate cancer. It starts there but cancer cells can then spread all over the whole body.
Cells break away from the tumor and invade nearby tissue. This is referred to as localized metastasis. Prostate cancer is classified into four stages. In the stages one to three the tumors have different sizes but are all still in the prostate. In stage four the cancer has spread beyond the prostate and is referred to as metastatic prostate cancer.
There are exceptions but normally from stage one, the tumor spreads slowly. So, the sooner you notice the higher chance you have to get cured. Hence, it is highly recommended to do regular prostate cancer screening, especially when you get older.
Causes and Risk Factors
Like with all types of cancer, the causes of prostate cancer cannot be clearly defined. Typically it is a combination of lifestyle, genetics and environmental circumstances. Smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, being overweight and generally diet can have an influence on developing cancer. Family history of cancer can increase the risk of cancer. Also being exposed to environmental toxins, like certain chemicals or radiation, can have an impact.
All of these factors could cause a mutation of cells, which may grow abnormally. These abnormal cells may develop into a tumor. If it is an aggressive type of tumor, it may leave the original location (prostate in this case) and become advanced prostate cancer that spreads all over your body (i.e., metastatic prostate cancer or stage four).
In terms of risk of developing prostate cancer, age is the biggest contributing factor. According to cancer.org prostate cancer is typically diagnosed in men who are 65 or older. Older men run the highest risk. Family history is another high risk factor. About 5 to 10% of prostate cancer cases are due to inherited mutations.
It seems ethnicity also plays a role. In the United States, African-American men run the highest risk of prostate cancer. Fatality is twice as likely as with white men. Asian-American and Latino men have the lowest incidences of prostate cancer.
Interesting is also that geographical location plays a role. Men living in Africa, Asia, Central or South America are much less likely to develop prostate cancer than men living in northwestern Europe, North America, the Caribbean, or Australia. Environmental and cultural factors certainly play a role for the high risk. And my guess is also especially the diet.
The most critical causes for aggressive tumors are your diet, smoking, obesity and lack of movement (sedentary lifestyle). I will get back to these specifically in my 10 steps to prevent prostate cancer below.
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
Unfortunately, symptoms of prostate cancer are very weak or may not be very apparent in the first place. Some may also be related to other health problems. That’s why routine check-ups with your doctor are recommended. If you, however, experience any changes in your urinary or sexual function, this could be an indication of prostate cancer and in that case consult a doctor immediately.
Urinary problems could include pain or bleeding while urinating, a very slow stream, or a frequent need to urinate. Sexual problems include erectile dysfunction. In later states, if cancer has already spread into other body parts, numbness or pain can be experienced in the pelvic, back or chest.
Various means are available for diagnosis:
- Digital rectal exam (DRE): This is the easiest but probably also the most unreliable way of testing. The doctor will insert a finger into your rectum and try and feel if there are any unusual lumps on your prostate.
- Prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing: The prostate produces a specific protein called PSA. A simple blood test can analyse your levels of PSA. If levels surpass a certain threshold it could be an indication of cancer.
- Prostate biopsy: If there is suspicion of prostate cancer a biopsy may be executed to confirm a diagnosis. To do this a small piece of your prostate gland is removed and analysed. The result is the so-called Gleason score. If this score is high (and also the PSA), then the probability is very high that prostate cancer is present.
- Other tests that could be used include MRI, CT, or bone scans.
It is also important to note that these means are always 100% reliable and could lead to misdiagnosis.
Prostate Cancer Treatment Options
Prostate cancer can be treated in many different ways. The treatment typically depends on your age and overall health, how aggressive or advanced the cancer is, or if it has already spread into other body parts. The treatments can include:
- Active surveillance (also referred to as “watchful waiting”) means that if during a routine screening cancer is detected but seems very non-aggressive, then the possible side effects of a treatment may actually be more harmful than beneficial. In this case the doctor may decide to monitor the state of the cancer very carefully and only react if it changes.
- Different types of surgery are possible and include: radical prostatectomy (complete surgical removal of the prostate gland), cryosurgery (probes with cold gases are inserted into the prostate to kill the cancer cells), or Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP, thin cutting device is inserted into the penis to cut away tissue blocking the urine flow).
- Radiation therapy or radiotherapy is used to terminate cancer cells by exposing them to controlled doses of radioactivity. This treatment can be external (external beam radiation therapy EBRT) or internal (brachytherapy) where radioactive material is directly into the cancerous prostate parts.
- Hormone therapy tries to control the hormone androgen via drugs, which can cause the prostate cancer to grow. Side effects like weight gain, fatigue, loss of sex drive, impotence, or even osteoporosis are substantial.
- In chemotherapy very strong drugs are used to kill the cancer cells and it’s only used in later stages. Like hormone therapy, chemotherapy does not kill the cancer itself but only shrink tumors and reduce symptoms. Side effects are similar as with hormone therapy and in addition may include reduced immune system function, hair loss, vomiting or diarrhea.
10 Steps to Prevent Prostate Cancer
This list of steps is partly influenced by some of the things to know and do by Movember and I added some more based on my own research.
1. Know the Numbers
One out of nine men is diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Early detection can be the difference between life and death. Before you turn 50 talk to your doctor about a PSA test. Do the same at 45 if you are of African or Caribbean descent or if you have a family history of prostate cancer.
2. Know Your Nuts
This is related to testicular cancer but equally important. Regularly check your nuts. Visually and also touch them. If you feel something unusual, go and see your doctor.
3. Stay Connected
Surround yourself with people who you like and who are good for you. Friends should be a source of energy and should not drain you of energy (of course, this can happen if a friend has troubles but it should not be the default). So, make an effort to stay connected.
4. Reduce Stress
Chronic stress can help develop and spread cancer generally. Stress hormones put the body in a state of alert, which means other functions like repairing cells or defending against diseases is rather “on hold.” Try and eliminate chronic stress as much as possible.
Exercise is one of the key pillars of health. Don’t be lazy. Do stuff. Lift weights and do cardio. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, all of which influence your positive mood. My Build Bullet-Proof Health program aims to achieve exactly that.
6. Generally Move More
Apart from dedicating time to focussed exercise, also incorporate more general movement into your daily life. It will increase your NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis), you will burn more calories and you will generally feel better. It has been shown that being obese can increase risk of cancer.
7. Skip the Junk
The World Cancer Research Fund states that junk or processed foods increase the risk of getting cancer. This is especially true for processed red meat like bacon, ham or sausages, trans fats, simple carbs (refined sugars), a high-fat diet and also alcohol. Develop your self-discipline and build habits to replace junk with more wholefood options.
8. Coffee and Tea
Coffee and tea have many health benefits such as their anti-inflammatory and nootropic effects. A review of clinical studies showed that consuming coffee every day can significantly lower chances of prostate cancer. This is mainly due to the chemicals cafestol and kahweol contained in coffee.
Tea (especially green tea or green tea extracts) includes nutrients such as polyphenols and isoflavones. Both are linked to reducing risk of cancer.
9. Don't Smoke
This is probably a no-brainer. But there are also studies that show if you smoke you are more likely to die from prostate cancer. Also, smokers who went through treatment run a higher risk of recurrence of cancer.
10. Check With Your Doctor
Have regular health checks with your doctor. I know this is super uncomfortable but every now and then ask the doctor for a rectal examination. Also, if you have blood in your urine or semen, difficulties or pain in urinating or ejaculating, or any discomfort in your pelvic or rectal areas, discuss it with your doctor. Finding cancer in early stages, massively increases the probability of curing it.
Let's Team up! Let's Fight Prostate Cancer!
Prostate cancer is next to skin cancer the most common cancer in men. It can be treated if discovered early. So make sure you monitor yourself and have regular medical checkups.
With my whole 4legsfitness.com platform my aim is to promote overall health based on the four pillars strength, endurance, nutrition and recovery. Working on your health and using the ten steps that I outlined in this article you are going a long way to preventing cancer or other diseases in the first place.
Still there is work to be done to raise awareness and to support cancer research via fundraising. That is why I decided to support the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride campaign.
Please follow me and support our fight against prostate cancer with donations.