What Are the Main Causes of Prostate Cancer?

Reviewed on 4/8/2021

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the prostate gland.
Prostate cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the prostate gland.

Prostate cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the prostate gland. It is the second most common cancer in males in the United States (the first being skin cancer). Around 13 out of 100 men get prostate cancer during their lifetime in America. The prostate gland is a part of the male reproductive system. It is a small (almost walnut-sized) gland located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum (the last part of the large bowel), surrounding the urethra (the tube carrying urine out of the bladder). The prostate has two main functions: producing and storing fluid that helps make semen and nourishing the semen.

What are the main causes of prostate cancer?

The exact cause of prostate cancer is not known. Studies have revealed that prostate cancer occurs when the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or genetic material of a normal prostate cell undergoes a sudden and abnormal change called a mutation.

The DNA stores all the information required for the normal functioning of cells. It constitutes the oncogenes (which instruct cells to grow, divide, and live) and tumor suppressor genes (which regulate cell growth and division, as well as repair any damage or abnormality in the DNA). Prostate cancer may result when the oncogenes become overactive or the tumor suppressor genes get turned off in the prostate cells. The abnormality may begin with a single prostate cell that multiplies rapidly to produce many more such cells resulting in uncontrolled growth of prostate cells (prostate cancer).

According to researchers, certain conditions can increase the risk for prostate cancer. These include:

  • Age: The chances of getting prostate cancer increase with age. Most experts recommend considering screening when a man is aged 50 years. 
  • Race: African-American men are at a greater risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Family history: There is a higher risk of prostate cancer in men who have a close family member (father, uncle, or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).
  • Heredity: Certain genetic conditions may increase the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Diet and lifestyle: Men who have a diet rich in animal fats and low in fruits and vegetables may have greater chances of getting prostate cancer. Being obese or having a sedentary lifestyle also raises prostate cancer risk.
  • Smoking: It increases oxidative stress in the body causing an increased risk of several cancers, including prostate cancer.

Can prostate cancer affect your sexual life?

Prostate cancer may result in an enlarged prostate that can cause sexual problems in men, such as:

  • Erectile dysfunction (the inability to attain and maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse at least 25% of the time)
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Decreased sexual satisfaction

Prostate cancer may cause a sudden onset of erectile dysfunction (ED). Erectile dysfunctions may also occur after the completion of therapy for prostate cancer, including surgery, radiotherapy, and hormonal therapy. Erectile dysfunction may also result due to noncancerous enlargement of the prostate (called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH).

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References
American Cancer Society. What Causes Prostate Cancer? https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/what-causes.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Basic Information About Prostate Cancer. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/basic_info/

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