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Men’s Health Month: 7 facts men need to know about prostate cancer

In 2011, the United States Preventative Services Task Force changed the guidelines for prostate cancer screening, recommending that men no longer receive PSA blood tests to screen for the disease. However, the new recommendations have received push-back from prostate cancer survivors and advocacy groups. Given the controversy, what do men need to know?

First, a few facts about prostate cancer:

  • Prostate cancer is a disease that primarily occurs in men over the age of 50. In 2010, there were 238,590 new cases and 29,720 deaths, making prostate cancer the second leading cause of cancer death.
  • Approximately 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives, and 1 in 36 men die from the disease.
  • Almost 2/3 of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are above 65 years of age; the average age of diagnosis is 67.
  • Age is the number one risk factor for prostate cancer, followed by family history, race and diet. African American men have a much higher incidence of prostate cancer. Also, the disease is associated with a diet that is high in red meat and fat.

Second, a few facts about prostate cancer screening: 

  • One of the most common ways to screen for prostate cancer is through a blood test that checks PSA levels. This test is available for men beginning at age 50.
  • The PSA test may be able to detect prostate cancer in otherwise healthy men, allowing for early treatment. However, it can also lead to unnecessary procedures, including biopsies and surgeries, in men with no cancer or slow-growing cancer that does not pose a significant risk. For these reasons, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force does not recommend that everyone gets screened, but instead encourages men to talk with their doctors.
  • Another screening test for prostate cancer is the digital rectal exam. Like PSA tests, deciding whether or not be screened with a digital rectal exam is an individual decision. 

Given the rate of prostate cancer in the United States, it is important for men in their late 50s and early 60s to be aware of their risk. Then, they can talk to their doctor and determine if a screening is right for them. 

For more information about Saint Thomas Health, please visit www.sths.com. To schedule an appointment or find a physician in your area, please call 1-800-DOCTORS

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