The deadly myths about prostate cancer

By: Christopher P. Evans, MD, FACS Special to The News Messenger
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Editor?s Note: According to the California Cancer Registry, there will be an estimated 670 deaths from cancer in Placer County and about 1,860 new cancer diagnoses in 2012. In light of the alarming statistics, The Lincoln News Messenger is partnering with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center to educate readers about cancer prevention and treatment. The articles are designed to inform readers about varying forms of cancer, how they can be detected, who is most at risk and recommended lifestyle changes and screening for prevention. The first article focuses on the deadly myths of prostate cancer. By Christopher P. Evans, MD, FACS Special to The News Messenger Misconceptions about prostate cancer abound. It?s not just a disease that affects older men and it is not always slow-growing. Despite some recent recommendations against getting PSA (prostate-specific antigen) screenings, the facts show otherwise: 1) Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer diagnosis in American men. The National Cancer Institute estimates 241,740 new cases of prostate cancer in 2012. 2) Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths of American men. One in six men in the U.S. risks getting prostate cancer. Why is this disease so prevalent today? We believe prostate cancer has always been widespread. However, prior to 1987, we didn?t screen for it. At that time, 40 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer had metastatic disease that had spread from the primary location to other parts of the body. Today, with screenings and early detection, that number has been drastically reduced to 2 percent. Prostate cancer is linked to many variables, including age, ethnicity, family history and environmental factors. Based on annual cases diagnosed per 100,000 as reported by the National Cancer Institute: ? If you are black, you have the highest risk of developing prostate cancer (234 cases); ? If you are white, you have the second highest risk (150 cases); ? If you are Hispanic, the risk is 129 cases per 100,000; and ? If you Asian/Pacific Islander, you have a lower risk (88 cases). These disparities may be due to a variety of complex factors. But evidence suggests that lack of health care coverage and socioeconomic status play a significant role. Further studies are underway to confirm the causes of disparities. What can you do? Challenge the myths and protect yourself against prostate cancer: ? Talk to your physician and develop a screening plan that?s right for you. ? Get screened, especially if you are at increased risk. This may include regular digital prostate exams and PSA tests. Normal PSA values can vary with age. ? If your father or brother has had prostate cancer, you may be at an increased risk of getting the disease and you should get regular screenings. ? Although studies vary about the impact of foods on prostate cancer, such as those containing omega-3, lycopene and soy products, it?s important to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. ? Adopt a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables and is low in high-fat dairy products and barbequed red meats (especially charred meats). ? Avoid taking more than 1,500 mg. of calcium per day and stay away from mega-doses of vitamins, especially E and folate. ? Exercise daily and include strength training to avoid muscle loss as part of your regimen. Educating yourself about prostate cancer and taking steps to reduce your risks is the best defense against this potentially deadly disease. Dr. Christopher Evans is professor and chairman at the Department of Urology, UC Davis School of Medicine, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute-designated UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. The UC Davis Health System?s cancer center recently earned ?comprehensive? status from the National Cancer Institute, a designation that makes it one of the nation?s top-tier cancer centers and the only center of its kind to be given this national recognition in the greater Sacramento region.