Prostate cancer is a type of malignant tumor that develops in the prostate. The prostate is a gland present in men located below the bladder and near the rectum. The gland surrounds the urethra and is responsible for the formation of a fluid that is part of the semen expelled during ejaculation.

When a patient suffers from prostate cancer, both the urinary and reproductive systems are affected. Patients often experience symptoms like urination problems, pain during urination or ejaculation and in the lower back, hips or upper thighs, weakness or numbness in the limbs, and erectile dysfunction.

The symptoms are usually not severe when the disease first starts to develop, which can make it difficult to diagnose. At a specific age, however, patients are usually advised to make more frequent visits to the doctor for regular prostate exams.

Causes that lead to the development of prostate cancer are still not fully understood, but it is known that genetics plays an important role, and researchers have identified risk factors for the disease.

Genetics as Main Cause for Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer consists of an abnormal reproduction of the cells that grow out of control. The most basic explanation is that alterations in the DNA of a prostate cell triggers this process. Researchers have been focused on explaining the causes for prostate cancer and have made great progress in understanding these DNA alterations.

“Some genes control when our cells grow, divide into new cells, and die. Certain genes that help cells grow, divide, and stay alive are called oncogenes,” according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). “Others that normally slow down cell division, repair mistakes in DNA, or cause cells to die at the right time are called tumor suppressor genes. Cancer can be caused in part by DNA changes (mutations) that turn on oncogenes or turn off tumor suppressor genes. DNA changes can either be inherited from a parent or can be acquired during a person’s lifetime.”

In five to 10 percent of the cases, prostate cancer is caused by inherited DNA mutations. There are many mutated genes identified that contribute to this process. RNASEL (formerly HPC1) is a tumor suppressor gene that, before the mutation, helps cells die when something goes wrong inside them, while BRCA1 and BRCA2 are tumor suppressor genes that normally help repair mistakes in a cell’s DNA.

In addition, DNA mismatch repair genes, such as MSH2 and MLH1, normally help fix mistakes in DNA that occur when a cell is preparing to divide into two new cells.

In the majority of the cases, however, DNA mutations are acquired during a patient’s lifetime. Cells normally divide into two new ones and to do so, they prepare by copying the DNA. But the process may be disturbed and errors can occur. In these cases, a flaw remains in the DNA of the new cell. It is not clear if it happens as a random event or is influenced by factors like high levels of androgens, which promote prostate cell growth. High levels of the hormone known as insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is also known to impact the DNA mutations.

Other Risk Factors That Impact Prostate Cancer Development

Risk factors impact a person’s chance of developing a disease like cancer, and different cancers have different risk factors, says the ACS. People can change some risk factors, such as whether they smoke.

“Others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t be changed,” says the American Cancer Society. “But risk factors don’t tell us everything. Many people with one or more risk factors never get cancer, while others who get cancer may have had few or no known risk factors. We don’t yet completely understand the causes of prostate cancer, but researchers have found several factors that might affect a man’s risk of getting it.”

Age is the primary risk factor, since the diagnosis of prostate cancer in men younger than 40 is very rare. The probability increases after age 50, and about 60 percent of all prostate cancer cases are in men older than 65.

Race and ethnicity are also important factors. Prostate cancer is more common among African-American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races, with Asian and Hispanic/Latino men having the lower probability.

Geography is also a risk factor. The incidence of the disease is higher in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and in the Caribbean, but lower in Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America.

Family history and genetics are the most common risk factor. But diet and obesity also affect the development of prostate cancer. The causes are not fully understood, but men who consume a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products but few fruits and vegetables have a higher probability of suffering from prostate cancer.

Similarly, obesity increases the chances of having the disease. Smoking is related to almost every type of cancer and also increases the probability of dying from the disease. Other risk factors include workplace exposure to toxic substances; suffering from other diseases that cause inflammation of the prostate; sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea or chlamydia; and undergoing a vasectomy.

Note: Prostate Cancer News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.