Its job is to produce some of the fluid that nourishes and protects sperm cells in semen.
Every male should be mindful of the prostate, because after age 50 or so for most, it can be the source of trouble that no man would want. The prostate tends to enlarge as a man ages, with ills range from an overly enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia in medical terms) to inflammation of the gland (prostatitis) to prostate cancer, which can affect as many as 230,000 men each year.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. It’s the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer in men.
So it makes good sense for every man to do what he can in youth to avoid problems with the prostate later on in life. There’s no guarantee, but there are steps that men can take in their 20s, 30s and 40s to up the chances for a healthier 50s and beyond.
According to Brian Stisser, MD, of Blue Ridge Urological Associates, PC, in Fishersville, the main steps to take in prostate care is to take care of the packaging around it. Good, general health practices, Dr. Stisser says, can pay dividends. “There’s more and more data and thought,” Dr. Stisser notes, “that many cancers are almost immunologic — like catching a virus or having and infection. So if you are able to do things to boost the body’s immune system, it can decrease the likelihood of cancer not developing, but if cancer does develop it gives the person a much better chance of having a cure.
Certain risk factors, he says, can’t be avoided. Those include your age, your family history, your race (a higher incidence of cancer among African Americans, especially people of Caribbean extraction and Caucasians higher than Hispanics, for example) and even where you live.
Research suggests that men living above the 40th degree of latitude have a higher chance of a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Virginia is below 40 degrees latitude.
Those factors aside, here are some things you can do to keep yourself, and your prostate, healthy:
- Cultivate a diet low in saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables. Think Mediterranean Diet. Limit your intake of animal fats, including dairy products; eat lots of fish, fruits (especially watermelon), nuts, vegetables (especially cooked tomatoes, onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, leafy green vegetables and others). Green tea also helps.
Watermelon is a good source of lycopene, an antioxidant linked with treatment and prevention of cancer.
There are no studies that suggest clear benefit to the prostate of vitamins and herbal supplements, and Dr. Stisser cautions that they are tricky subjects pertaining to prostate cancer. He further cautions that if you are thinking of take them, see them as medications and treat them accordingly, which includes discussing your plans with your doctor.
“As long as someone has a well-rounded diet, most of the supplements really are not needed,” advises Dr. Stisser.
The American Urological Association recommends screening for prostate cancer between the ages of 55 and 70 for healthy men, with the ages adjusted for at-risk men, healthier older men, etc. The screening is quick, simple and painless, involving a rectal exam and a blood test called the PSA. And always be sure to discuss your individual needs with your physician.