The number of younger men diagnosed with prostate cancer has increased nearly six-fold in the last 20 years, according to recent studies. Equally concerning, in these younger men is a higher rate of prostate cancer being more aggressive and therefore more life threatening than in older men. Historically, it has affected mostly senior men in their 70s or 80s, and their cancer has been slow-growing. In fact, many older men diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer eventually die from other causes.
Younger men don’t routinely undergo prostate specific antigen (PSA) and rectal exam screenings until the recommended age of about 50 years old. This common cancer in men usually has no physical symptoms in earlier stages. As a result, if aggressive prostate cancer is eventually diagnosed in men younger than 55, it has often already progressed to a later stage cancer when it is more difficult to treat. This is why in certain populations, such as men with a family history of this type of cancer, it is recommended to begin screening earlier.
This alarming trend in younger men with prostate cancer is not going unnoticed. More genetic research is being done to further classify this category of prostate cancer. In the near future, a genetic evaluation will be standard for these men.
Diet can increase your risk
More than 25 studies found the more red meat a man eats, the higher his risk of developing prostate cancer. But that’s not all ─ fried and processed foods, saturated animal fats and a diet high in dairy increases and may even accelerate the progression of the cancer. Like other serious diseases, obesity is also an added risk contributor.
Another cause for the diagnosis in younger men is simple genetics. Males with a family history have a two- to three-times greater risk (which increases further with multiple affected relatives).
The treatment dilemma
The question of whether younger men with this type of cancer should have surgery right away ─or can wait to see how it progresses ─ has been controversial. While prostate cancer is often slow to progress in older men, surgery can have significant side effects ─ the possibility of lifelong erectile dysfunction or chronic urinary incontinence. For men in their 30s or 40s, this can be a difficult decision.
Every year, I am seeing more male patients who are committed to living a healthy lifestyle and taking the time to undergo the necessary screenings in order to stave off cancer and other serious medical conditions. Today, prostate cancer is a highly treatable disease, particularly in earlier stages. If you are over age 40, speak with your doctor about your personal risk factors and determine if PSA testing is appropriate for you.
The Statesir Cancer Center at CentraState Medical Center is accredited by the American College of Surgeons (ACoS) Commission on Cancer (CoC) for quality and excellence and is designated as a Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program. Affiliated with the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center, the Center combines a wealth of top cancer experts, groundbreaking treatments, cutting-edge research and comprehensive prevention programs. For more information, call (855) 411-CANCER.
Troy Sukkarieh, MD is a board-certified urologic surgeon specializing in robotic and advanced laparoscopic surgery. He is on staff at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold. The doctor has authored numerous manuscripts in peer reviewed journals and delivered podium presentations on topics related to urology at several international summits. Dr. Sukkarieh can be reached at Central Jersey Urology Associates by calling 732-972-9000.