Prostate cancer is one of the leading killers of men. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 186,320 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and 28,660 will die from it.
Although it’s one of the most common cancers suffered by men, there are ways to minimize the risk of getting it, said Dr. Ihor Sawczuk, chairman of urology and chief of urologic oncology at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.
Here are five of them:
1. Get Tested. All men age 50 and older should be tested annually for prostate cancer, Sawczuk said.
There are two types of prostate cancer screening: the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and the digital rectal exam.
The first test measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made mostly by the prostate. Too much PSA in the blood may indicate prostate cancer. However, high levels of PSA may also be indicative of infection, inflammation or an enlarged prostate.
The second test involves a doctor or nurse placing a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to check the prostate for lumps and anything else unusual.
If either test raises a red flag, doctors may follow up with a prostate biopsy. This is the most accurate way of checking for cancer. However the test is invasive and can result in a urinary tract infection, as well as urinary and incontinence problems.
2. Get Plenty of Vitamin D. Spending time in the sun and taking a daily supplement will help men increase their levels of vitamin D and possibly reduce their risks of prostate cancer.
“Vitamin D has been shown to inhibit prostate cancer cells in the laboratory,” Sawczuk said.
Calcium may reduce the amounts of biologically active vitamin D in the body, so milk drinkers should also look for additional sources of vitamin D, which can be found in cod liver oil, tuna and salmon.
3. Quit Smoking. In addition to harming the lungs and the heart, smoking may also be responsible for the spread of prostate cancer.
A 2003 study from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that men under the age of 55 who had prostate cancer and were current or former smokers were 66 percent more likely to see the cancer spread into other areas of the body.
4. Reduce body fat. Being overweight and maintaining a diet that is high in saturated fat, as well as processed and red meats, are risk factors for prostate cancer, said Sawczuk.
Fatty diets have been found to increase testosterone production, which in turn increases the risk of prostate cancer. Research has also shown that men who consume red meat at least five times a week had a 2.5 percent increase in developing prostate cancer than men who ate red meat less then once a week.
5. Eat a Variety of Healthy Foods. There has also been promising research that shows pomegranate, soy and foods high in lycopene, such as tomato sauce, reduce the risk of prostate cancer, Sawczuk said, adding that maintaining a healthy diet is one of the best ways men can reduce their risk of cancer.