Prostate cancer risk is determined
largely by age. As men age past 40, their chance of
developing prostate cancer increases exponentially each
year. Some doctors believe that all men, given the proper
amount of time, will eventually develop prostate cancer,
but that many die of other causes, such as disease,
accidents, or natural causes, before developing the
disease. Prostate cancer is so rare in young men that
there are no statistics available for the disease incidence
in men under 35.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
As men pass the age of 40, the prostate gland begins
to enlarge. This enlargement is generally benign and
may cause slight elevations in the prostate-specific
antigen level. An overgrowth of prostatic tissue which
is not malignant is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia
and does not require treatment unless difficulty in
urination is adversely affecting a man’s everyday
Why Does Age Affect Prostate
If the prostate gland is growing, the prostatic cells
are multiplying. No one is sure of the exact cause of any cancer; however, the increased age and the new growth of the prostate gland make this tissue susceptible to malignancies or abnormalities.
Prostate Cancer Testing
Prostate cancer is the growth of a malignant tumor capable
of metastasizing and spreading to other areas of the
body such as the lymphatic system or the bones. Without
yearly prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests and DRE examinations, early prostate cancer is very difficult
to detect. Difficulty in urination or ejaculation, which may be associated with later stages of prostate cancer, may simply be attributed to the process of aging.
All men should begin yearly PSA
testing by the age of 50. Men who have a family history or racial predisposition for developing prostate cancer should begin yearly diagnostic testing at age 40. Early detection is key. As prostate cancer treatments are evolving, the ability to remove the malignant tissue and retain sexual potency as well as urinary continence is increasing. However, the success
of these treatments is strongly correlated to the prostate
cancer stage in which treatment begins.
Age as a Determining Factor
in Prostate Cancer Treatment
Most cases of prostatic adenocarcinoma—the most common type of prostate cancer—progress slowly. Men who develop prostate cancer and catch the disease in an early stage may consider the prostate cancer treatment, Watchful Waiting. The tumor is carefully monitored
every 3 to 6 months for changes in the rate of growth. Treatment is postponed until the tumor begins growing larger or more aggressively. Older men may also consider Watchful Waiting as both a primary or salvage therapy. Men who are older or who are in poor health, may consider postponing treatment if cancer growth is slow or the side effects of treatment outweigh the benefits.