Photo Credit: Charles Hewitt/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The Big Picture: If caught early, prostate cancer ihas a 95 percent survival rate.
Cases: Annual new cases reported (U.S. in 2012): 242,000 per year Annual deaths (U.S. in 2012) 28,000 per year
Detection and Screenings: The question of screening is a personal and complex one. It’s important for each man to talk with his doctor about whether prostate cancer screening is right for him.
When to start screening is generally based on individual risk. For those at high risk (genetic predispositions or strong family histories of prostate cancer at a young age), age 40 is a reasonable time to start screening . For otherwise healthy men at high risk (strong family histories or African American men), age 40-45 is a good time to start checking.
The purpose of screening is to detect prostate cancer at its earliest stages, before any symptoms have developed.
That’s when the cancer can be treated most effectively. There are two quick and easy tests that can be done right at the doctor’s office: the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test and the digital rectal exam (DRE), which is a little more invasive but still a relatively easy procedure.
Risk Factors: There are four major factors that influence one's risk for developing prostate cancer:
- Age: The average age at diagnosis of prostate cancer in the United States is 69 years. After that age, the chance of developing prostate cancer becomes more common than any other cancer in men or women.
- Race: African Americans are more likely to develop prostate cancer and have more than twice the risk of dying from it. Conversely, Asian men who live in Asia have the lowest risk; however when they migrate to the west, their risk increases.
- Family history: A man with a father or brother who has prostate cancer has a twofold-increased risk for developing it. This risk is further increased if the cancer was diagnosed at a young age (less than 55 years of age) or affected three or more family members.
- Where you live: Men who live north of 40 degrees latitude (north of Philadelphia, Columbus, Ohio, and Provo, Utah) have the highest risk for dying from prostate cancer of any men in the United States -- this effect appears to be mediated by inadequate sunlight during three months of the year which reduces vitamin D levels.
Prevention: Although genetic and environmental risk factors for prostate cancer have been identified, the evidence is not strong enough for conclusive recommendations. As a result, early detection is key.