Prostate cancer develops when the DNA in a prostate gland cell is injured or mutated. This malignant cell begins to proliferate and form tumors, and, if untreated, prostate cancer may eventually metastasize or spread to other organs. The cause of these mutations is not known, but studies point to a number of risk factors.
Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer generally develops after the age of 50, with most cases diagnosed in men over the age of 65.
African- and Caribbean-American men are twice as likely as American men of European ancestry to develop prostate cancer.
Men with a father or brother with prostate cancer have an increased risk for developing the disease.
Studies indicate that men who have a high-fat diet and who smoke have a greater chance of developing prostate cancer.
Warning Signs of Prostate Cancer
In many cases, prostate cancer grows slowly and men may live for many years with a small, slow-growing prostate tumor. Some cases of the disease are more aggressive, though, and spread rapidly outside the prostate gland to other organs or bones.
In its early stages, prostate cancer usually does not cause specific signs or symptoms. For this reason, prostate screening provides the best chance of identifying prostate cancer in its earliest stages. Screening tests include a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE). These tests, one or both, are frequently preformed during an annual physical examination in men over 50 years of age.
When symptoms of prostate cancer do appear they may include:
- weak or interrupted flow of urine
- urinating often (especially at night)
- difficulty urinating or holding back urine
- inability to urinate
- pain or burning when urinating
- blood in the urine or semen
- nagging pain in the back, hips, or pelvis
- difficulty having an erection
These symptoms can all arise from conditions other than prostate cancer. If you do have any of these symptoms, though, it is important to see a doctor.