Friday 04 December 2009, 02:51

Prostate cancer risk

How to assess the risk for prostate cancer

Prostate cancer risk

Although scientists don’t know the exact causes of prostate cancer, they do know that certain circumstances (risk factors) increase the chance of developing it.


Prostate cancer risk assessment is important in identifying men who might be at high risk for developing the disease and in helping physicians to determine what medical interventions might be needed and what preventive strategies might be undertaken.


Prostate cancer risk factors can be classified in four categories: 1) genetic risk factors; 2) biological risk factors; 3) behavioural risk factors; 4) environmental risk factors. The only risk factors that have been consistently associated with prostate cancer belong to the first two categories: family history (genetic risk factors), age and race (biological risk factors).


It has been shown that family history plays a significant role in the likelihood of developing prostate cancer: prostate cancer risk appears to be higher than average for men whose fathers or brothers have had the disease, as well as for men whose mothers or sisters have had breast cancer.


Age is the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer. The chance of getting the disease sharply increases after 40 years of age and the maximum incidence is between the ages of 60 and 80. Race is another important risk factor for prostate cancer: African Americans show the highest incidence of prostate cancer, followed by whites, Hispanics and Native Americans. By contrast, Asian people have the lowest incidence of prostate cancer in the world.


Other factors being studied as potential contributing causes of prostate cancer are diet and drugs. Although not yet demonstrated systematically, it appears that some nutrients play a role in the development (fats) or prevention (antioxidants vitamins and minerals, phytoestrogens found in soy products) of the disease.


As concerns the relationship between drugs and prostate cancer, it has been observed that finasteride (a drug used to reduce the amount of testosterone produced by the body) reduces the chance of getting the disease. However, in men who develop prostate cancer while taking finasteride, the incidence of high-grade prostatic tumors is significantly higher than average. Therefore benefits and risks resulting from the use of finasteride have always to be considered carefully.


Other researches have focused on the potential association between prostate cancer, on the one hand, and benign prostatic hyperplasia, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity on the other hand. None of these appear to be a significant risk factor, although additional studies are needed.


By Chiara De Carli

Category: Cancer

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