September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Over the last twenty years, the number of younger men diagnosed with prostate cancer has increased nearly six times. Over 10 percent of new prostate cancer diagnoses in the U.S. occur in men younger than 55 years old. In younger men, doctors are finding the disease is often much more aggressive.
Prostate cancer typically affects men in their 60s, 70s and older, and is often slow-growing. Therefore, older men are likely to die of causes other than prostate cancer, even if they have the disease. However, when younger men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, it is usually because they have developed a tumor that is growing rapidly and aggressively.
Because of the current Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test guidelines established by some governmental agencies, many doctors or urologists do not recommend PSA tests until a man is in his 50s. In fact, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) actually recommends against PSA screening entirely, claiming there is not enough evidence to support the benefits of the test. Other agencies or organizations recommend that men begin testing their PSA at age 50 or 55.
What You Need to Know
- Get a baseline PSA test starting at age 40. Knowing your numbers early can make a difference if things change. PSA results should be discussed with an experienced physician who can guide about how to follow up and what to be aware of.
- Know your family’s medical history for prostate cancer. Men who have a brother or father with a history of prostate cancer are twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease. For younger men, the risk is even higher if they have multiple relatives with a history of prostate cancer.
- Watch what you eat. Multiple studies have shown that high consumption of red meat increases the risk of developing prostate cancer. Like other serious diseases, obesity is also an added risk factor, so reducing fried and processed foods and saturated fats is crucial.
- African-American men have the highest risk for prostate cancer. They are 60 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer and 2.5 times more likely to die from it. African-American men are also diagnosed at a younger age (about 3 years younger) and are more likely to have high-grade or aggressive tumors.