Men’s Health: Protect Yourself Against Prostate Cancer

One in six. Those are the odds. This year, one of six Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, the most common cancer among Canadian men.

With many people shying away from “below the belt” cancers, prostate cancer simply isn’t being discussed the way lung cancer or breast cancer are. The only thing this accomplishes is that it keeps us ignorant about the risk and what we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Prostate cancer is on the rise. The number of men afflicted is expected to climb to 1 in 4 within a decade. While there is no specific cause of prostate cancer, many things can affect a man’s risk of developing the disease.

Some contributing factors, such as age, ethnicity and family history cannot be controlled. The threat of prostate cancer also becomes greater with age and when family members are diagnosed. Men who have a father or brother with prostate cancer have a two-fold increased risk of developing the disease.

There are other risk factors that men can control. Both diet and weight affect the risk of prostate cancer. Additionally, a diet high in saturated fat encourages the creation of testosterone – this can help prostate cancer cells grow. Omega-3 fatty acids, however, have been shown to help prevent the disease; this essential fatty acid can be found in salmon and flax seeds. Other nutrients that may help prevent prostate cancer are lycopene (found in tomatoes), selenium (found in whole-grain wheat and garlic), isoflavones (found in soy), and vitamins C and D.

There is one more thing that men can do to protect themselves against prostate cancer: get tested. Starting at age 40, and every 5 years until age 50, all men should have their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels tested. At 50, a yearly PSA test should be administered. This protein (PSA), though normally present, is associated with prostate cancer. The higher the PSA level, the more likely that cancer exists. However, a high PSA score does not always mean cancer is present, so the test is best paired with a digital rectal exam (DRE) to note any physical abnormalities on the prostate. Starting PSA tests early is the most effective way to screen for the disease as it gives doctors a baseline score by which they can measure any future changes.

Early detection saves lives, but men will only know to get screened if we start talking about prostate cancer. More Canadians need to be aware of the threat of this disease, and of the work of researchers and doctors to find a cure. For more information, please visit Prostate Cancer Canada’s website at