Who’s at Risk for Prostate Cancer?

Early stages of the disease may produce no symptoms. So how do you know if you’re at risk?

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. The tricky thing is that by the time you develop symptoms, it’s usually at a fairly advanced stage. Early stages of the disease typically produce few or no symptoms. That’s why it’s important to understand your risk so you can determine if and when to be screened for the disease.

What are the risk factors?

  • Age. Prostate cancer is rare in men under age 40, but your risk rises rapidly after age 50. That’s why many doctors recommend screenings beginning at age 50 or 55. About 60% of prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over 65.
  • Ethnicity. African-American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer at an earlier age than men of other races and are twice as likely to die from the disease. Therefore, screenings are often recommended beginning at age 40. Hispanic and Asian-American men have a lower risk than Caucasian men.
  • Family history. Prostate cancer that runs in the family occurs about 20% of the time. If you have a strong family history of the disease, screenings may need to start as early as age 40.

What are the symptoms?

  • Early stage cancer usually produces few or no symptoms
  • Frequent urination, the urge to urinate often at night, weak urine flow or the need to strain to empty the bladder
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • New onset of erectile dysfunction
  • Discomfort in the pelvis or rectal region when sitting
  • Pain or burning when urinating (not as common)

The good news is that most men diagnosed with prostate cancer don’t die from it, but it’s best to catch it early when it’s still confined to the prostate. That’s why screenings can help.

What is a PSA screening?

A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening is a simple blood test that measures the amount of the enzyme. When the prostate is affected by cancer, it releases higher than normal levels, but levels can also go up due to inflammation, infection or enlargement. That’s why a test showing increased PSA levels is not always a sign of cancer. This has led to controversy about how effective prostate cancer screenings are because they lead to a lot of false-positive results. It’s best to talk with your doctor about whether this test is right for you.

 

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Review Date: August 10, 2016
Reviewed By: Noah May, MD
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