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CALLING AFRICAN CARIBBEAN MEN!

 

By Bill Carlin

Thursday, July 1, 2010.

 Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the UK. It is not yet clear why, but African Caribbean men in the UK have approximately three times greater risk of developing prostate cancer and are also likely to get prostate cancer approximately five years earlier than white men[2].

 During Ethnic Minority Cancer Awareness Week (3-10 July) we’re reminding men they can contact Macmillan for no-nonsense practical information and advice to help them cope whilst living with prostate cancer.

 So what is prostate cancer?

 The prostate is a small gland found only in men. It is the size of a walnut and surrounds the first part of the tube (urethra) which carries urine from the bladder to the penis.

 The prostate produces a thick white fluid called semen which mixes with the sperm produced by the testicles. It also produces a protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA) that turns the semen into liquid.

 In the UK about 1 in 14 men are at risk of developing prostate cancer over the course of a lifetime[3].  It differs from most other cancers in the body, in that small numbers of cancer cells within the prostate| are very common and may not grow or cause any problems for many years.

 Although the causes of cancer of the prostate aren’t absolutely clear, there are some factors that are known to increase a man's chance of developing the disease

 Some ethnic groups have a higher chance of developing prostate cancer than others. For example, African-Caribbean men are more likely to develop prostate cancer. However, Asian men have a lower risk of developing it.

 Men who have close relatives (a father, brother, grandfather or uncle) who have had prostate cancer are slightly more likely to develop it themselves.

 A diet which is high in animal fat (including dairy products) and low in fresh fruit and vegetables or a high intake of calcium may also increase the risk of prostate cancer.

 However, the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer is age.  It tends to affect mainly older men – nearly two out of every three prostate cancer (63 per cent) are diagnosed in men over the age of 70. By the age of 80, over half of all men will have some cancer cells in their prostate, but only 1 in 30 of these will actually die from it.

Symptoms

 Prostate cancer can be difficult to detect as the symptoms can be similar to other non-cancerous prostate problems.  However, symptoms should not be ignored, and men should go to their doctor for advice if they experience any of the following:

 

*         frequent trips to urinate (especially at night)

*         urgent need to urinate or a hesitancy whilst urinating

*         lower back pain

*         blood in the urine (rare)

*         difficulty in getting an erection

 Tests

The first tests for diagnosing cancer of the prostate are a digital rectal examination (DRE) and a PSA blood test.

 As the rectum (back passage) is close to the prostate gland, during a DRE your doctor can feel for any abnormalities in the prostate by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum. This may be uncomfortable but should not be painful.

A sample of blood is taken to check for PSA (prostate-specific antigen). PSA is a protein produced by the prostate and a small amount is normally found in the blood.  Men with cancer of the prostate tend to have more PSA in their blood. However, this test is not always reliable, as PSA levels also get higher as men get older. The PSA can also go up after vigorous exercise such as cycling. Orgasms also send the level higher.

 Risks

Unfortunately you can’t do anything about risk factors such as your age or race, but there are other risk factors, known as lifestyle factors that you can control.  It has been estimated that about half (50 per cent) of all cancers diagnosed in the UK could be avoided if people made changes to their lifestyles to reduce the risk[4].  Macmillan Cancer Support has come up with five top tips to help you reduce the risk.

Eat a healthy diet

If you are worried about prostate cancer, it would help to cut down on red meat, animal fat and salt in your diet.  Tomatoes and tomato products (such as ketchup) may help to protect against prostate cancer. This may be because they contain high levels of a substance called lycopene. There is also some evidence that taking selenium supplements in the diet may help to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

 Give up smoking

About 1 in 3 cases of cancer (30 per cent) are caused by smoking. 

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink

The European Code Against Cancer recommends that to reduce the risk of developing cancer men should drink no more than two units a day. 

Do some regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight

Be body aware

Know what is normal for you and what a serious change seems.

Bill Carlin is a Cancer Information Nurse at Macmillan Cancer Support

For further information about prostate cancer, please visit www.macmillan.org.uk/prostate or speak directly to a Cancer Information Specialist Nurse on 0808 808 00 00.

 



 

 

 

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