We are now on week two of Movember, a moustache growing charity event held during November each year that raises funds and awareness for prostate cancer and men’s health in general (Mo, by the way, is Australian slang for mustache). Last week I provided some statistics on the incidence of prostate cancer in the United States, and this week, I thought I would list some risk factors for the disease. And again, to balance out the seriousness of this topic, I will follow the cold hard facts with some mustache-related photos for your enjoyment.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Prostate Cancer Foundation have put together lists of prostate cancer risk factors based on current research. They are:
Age. Although it is very rare in men younger than 50 years, rates of prostate cancer increase exponentially over age 50. The rates are 1 in 10,000 men under age 40, 1 in 38 for ages 40 to 59, and 1 in 15 for ages 60 to 69.
Race. At all ages, incidence of prostate cancer in African Americans exceeds those of all other races. African American men are 60% more likely to develop prostate cancer compared with Caucasian men, and they are nearly 2.5 times as likely to die from the disease. [Note: I would guess this is largely due to dietary and environmental factors, including health care disparity and greater exposure to environmental toxins]
Family History. About 15% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer have a first-degree male relative (e.g., brother, father) with prostate cancer, compared with approximately 8% of all men.
Obesity. Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer are more likely to have advanced disease that is more difficult to treat.
Where you live. Men who live in cities north of 40 degrees latitude have the highest risk for dying from prostate cancer of all men in the United States. It is thought that this might be related to reduced vitamin D levels due to low exposure to sunlight during three months of the year.
Dietary Fat. Prostate cancer rates varies from country to country by as much as 20-fold, and studies have demonstrated a direct relationship between a country’s prostate cancer mortality rate and average total calories from fat consumed by the country’s population. For example, studies of immigrants from Japan have shown that native-born Japanese men have the lowest risk of clinical prostate cancer, first generation Japanese-Americans have an intermediate risk, and subsequent generations have a risk comparable to the U.S. population. There are several possible reasons for this association, which you can find out more about on NCI’s website.
Dairy and Calcium Intake. In a meta-analysis of ten research studies (eight from the United States and two from Europe), it was found that men with the highest intake of dairy products and calcium were more likely to develop prostate cancer than men with the lowest intake. [Note: I would be curious to see if this applies to vegan men who get most of their calcium through green, leafy vegetables]
Hormones. There is evidence suggesting that the degree of cumulative exposure of the prostate to androgens is related to an increased risk of prostate cancer (see NCI’s website for technical details).
In addition to NCI’s list, the groundbreaking President’s Cancer Panel Report 2010 discusses some other environmental factors that contribute to risk of developing prostate cancer. For example, some chemicals thought to contribute to prostate cancer are inorganic arsenic in drinking water, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). BPA, which has been in the news a lot over the past couple of years, is also strongly indicated in contributing to the incidence of prostate cancer. The Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction also concluded in 2008 that there is “…some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A.” Several chemicals capable of mimicking the body’s hormones are suspected of causing prostate and testicular cancer, and BPA was found to cause biochemical changes in prostate tumor cells (in the laboratory) that could interfere with prostate cancer treatment.*
The NIH Agricultural Health study found that although overall cancer rates among farmers and pesticide applicators are not higher than other men and women in the study states (IA and NC), there are increased risks for specific cancers. For example, farmers and pesticide applicators have a significantly higher prostate cancer risk (female pesticide applicators have significantly higher incidence of ovarian cancer). Those who manufacture pesticides are also at a significantly higher risk for prostate cancer.
The Prostate Cancer Foundation, one of the benefactors of Movember’s fundraising efforts, also has a list of risk myths on their website.
As promised, I have posted an updated photo of Anthony Moriello, the face of Movember for my blog. He has gone from a clean-shaven man to an aspiring Erroll Flynn. You can support Anthony and his Movember team, the Wade Bogg All-Stars, by going to their Movember team page and making a donation. The funds raised by Movember go to some great organizations that promote true cancer prevention research, as well as screening, treatment and survivorship initiatives.
*Wetherill, Y. B., Hess-Wilson, J. K., Comstock, C. E. S., Shah, S. A., Buncher, C. R., Sallans, L, Limbach, P. A., Schwemberger, S., Babcock, G. F. & Knudsen, K. E. (2006). Bisphenol A facilitates bypass of androgen ablation therapy in prostate cancer. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, 5, 3181-3190.