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Prostate Cancer Screening and Prevention

Get answers to common questions, including who's at risk, when to get screened, and how diet can play a role in prevention.

Medically reviewed in August 2019

Updated on October 25, 2021

There's a lot of confusion about prostate cancer prevention and screening. To help clear things up, here are some answers to top questions about this common form of cancer. 

How many men does prostate cancer affect? 
Prostate canceraffects about 1 in 8 American men, making it the second leading cause of cancer death for men, behind lung cancer. The good news is that most cases grow very slowly (especially in older age), meaning that a smaller percentage of cases lead to death. So, while 12.5 percent of men will develop it, only 2.4 percent will die from it. 

Who is at risk? 
Men over age 50 are at highest risk. 

What can I do to prevent prostate cancer? 
You may have heard that omega-3 fatty acids raise your risk of prostate cancer. While this suggestion made headlines in 2013, more recent research indicates that it’s not true. A thorough analysis of the research has shown that we don’t fully know how omega-3s impact cancer risk—but evidence does not suggest that they increase it. We do know that omega-3s lead to lower rates of death from all causes, including cardiac arrest, and slow the rates of cellular aging.  

Many nutrition experts recommend eating foods high in omega-3s on a weekly basis to improve heart health. Omega-3s are known to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels, among other health benefits. They can be found in fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna.

Other omega-3 fatty acids can be found in green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach, and in certain vegetable oils, such as flaxseed and canola. While it’s agreed that getting nutrients from your food is the best source, you may also consider taking an omega-3 supplement of 500 milligrams per day. 

When should I start prostate cancer screening? 
This is another controversy. The problem is that prostate cancer is often asymptomatic in the early stages, meaning it may develop without outward signs. Many experts argue that, since the disease typically is not deadly, in many cases the treatment for prostate cancer may be more harmful than the condition itself. So, this is an area in which men must have a thorough discussion with their healthcare provider (HCP), weighing their risk factors and preference for treatment. 

Prostate cancer screening should be discussed with men starting at age 50, or at 40 to 45 for those who are higher risk for the disease (including African-American men and those with a family history or a BRCA gene mutation).  Most experts recommend that your prostate cancer screening should include a PSA level (blood test) every two years, depending on your risk factors.

What if I’m diagnosed with prostate cancer? 
Treatment-wise, it can be difficult to know what to do, especially in light of side effects that may come with some treatments. In this video, Simon Hall, MD, chairman of the department of urology at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, weighs the options. 

Sources:

American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Prostate Cancer. Last revised January 12, 2021.
Aucoin M, Cooley K, Knee C, et al. Fish-Derived Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review. Integr Cancer Ther. 2017;16(1):32-62.

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