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Although scientists still do not know exactly what causes prostate cancer, they believe that genetic and hormonal factors may be involved. Happily, we can control two risk factors—diet and physical inactivity. The American Cancer Society recommends “limiting your intake of high-fat foods from animal sources and choosing most of the foods you eat from plant sources.” It also recommends eating “five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day” as well as bread, cereals, pasta, other grain products, rice, and beans. Tomatoes, grapefruits, and watermelons are rich in lycopenes—antioxidants that help prevent damage to DNA and may help lower prostate cancer risk. Some experts also claim that certain herbs and minerals may help.

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The American Cancer Society and the American Urological Association believe that prostate cancer screening can save lives. Treatment is most likely to be successful when the cancer is detected early. The American Cancer Society recommends that men over 50, or over 45 in the case of those in high-risk groups, undergo an annual medical examination.

The examination should include a prostate-specific antigen blood test (PSA). This antigen is a protein produced by prostate cells. Its level increases in prostate diseases. “If your PSA test is not normal, ask your doctor to discuss your cancer risk and need for further tests,” says the American Cancer Society. A digital rectal exam (DRE) is also included. Through the patient’s rectum, the doctor can feel any abnormal area in the prostate gland, since this gland is located toward the front of the rectum. (See the illustration of the male pelvis on page 20.) A transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) test is useful “when the PSA or DRE indicates an abnormality” and the doctor needs to decide whether he should recommend a biopsy of the prostate gland. This test takes about 20 minutes.

In addition to detecting prostate cancer, the annual urologic examination can discover BPH, referred to previously, at an early stage, which would permit less aggressive treatment. (See the box “Treatments for BPH.”) Morally clean conduct protects a person from venereal diseases, which can cause prostatitis.

Certainly your prostate deserves to be protected and cared for. The man mentioned at the beginning of this article related that he has recovered fully from his operation. In his opinion “all men should undergo an annual preventive medical examination,” even if they do not have any symptoms.


If this is your age group, you are invited to consider the box “Symptom Index for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH).”

Symptom Index for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Directions: Answer the questions below by circling the appropriate number.

Questions 1-6 are to be answered:

0—Not at all

1—Less than one time in five

2—Less than half the time

3—About half the time

4—More than half the time

5—Almost always

 1. During the past month, after you finished urinating, how often did you have the sensation that you had not emptied your bladder completely? 0 1 2 3 4 5

 2. During the past month, how often did you have to urinate again within less than two hours after you finished urinating? 0 1 2 3 4 5

 3. During the past month, how often did you find that you stopped and started again several times when you urinated? 0 1 2 3 4 5

 4. During the past month, how often did you find it difficult to postpone urination? 0 1 2 3 4 5

 5. During the past month, how often did you have a weak urinary stream? 0 1 2 3 4 5

 6. During the past month, how often did you have to strain to begin urination? 0 1 2 3 4 5

 7. During the past month, how many times, on average, did you have to get up to urinate, from the time you went to bed until the time you got up in the morning? (Circle the number of times.) 0 1 2 3 4 5

The sum of the numbers circled is your BPH symptom score. Mild: 0-7, moderate: 8-19, severe: 20-35.

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From the American Urological Association

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