Prostate: what you can do to protect it
The prostate is a gland the size of a chestnut that lies below the bladder and in front of the rectum, and is pierced by the urethra. It is responsible for the secretion of nutrients and semen-fluidifying substances and also for its emission through ejaculation. Despite having a very important role, it is not essential to life and, if any clinical situation justifies it, it can be removed. Due to its close proximity to the bladder and urethra, prostate problems can have repercussions on these organs.
What are the most common illnesses?
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) | It is the increase in prostate volume caused by changes in sex hormones typical of aging. Not being a life-threatening disease, it causes a set of symptoms of the lower urinary tract (usually called LUTS: lower urinary tract symptoms), which significantly reduce the quality of life of patients. According to the Associação Portuguesa de Urologia (APU), BPH symptomatically affects about 25% of men over 40 years of age and one in three men over 65 years of age.
It is an inflammation of the prostate, which can be acute or chronic and may or may not have a bacterial origin. According to the APU, it is the most common prostate disease in men under 50 years of age, with around 50% of men developing symptoms of prostatitis at some point in their lives.
Prostate cancer | It is, in most cases, an adenocarcinoma, that is, a cancer of glandular origin. It represents the second cause of death from cancer in men, being the most common cancer in men over 50 years old. In Portugal, the APU estimates that it has an incidence of 82 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and a mortality of 33 per 100,000 inhabitants. That is, about 4000 new cases per year, with an approximate mortality of 1000 patients per year.
How to protect the prostate?
In epidemiology – the study of the frequency, distribution and determinants of health problems – the concept of risk is fundamental. Therefore, almost all diseases are associated with so-called risk factors, that is, situations or conditions that increase the probability of occurrence or worsening of the disease.
In prostate cancer there are risk factors that cannot be modified – such as sex, age and heredity. Others, on the contrary, are related to behaviors and lifestyles, so prevention must be based on their control.
Adopt a balanced diet.
“There are no foods proven to prevent prostate diseases”, explains urologist Frederico Ferronha. However, it is known that the opposite is true: “An unbalanced, hypercaloric diet, with excess proteins and fats increases the risk of both BPH and prostate cancer”, says the urologist. The American Cancer Society also points out that weight control, physical activity and a healthy, balanced diet – rich in fruits and vegetables – can help reduce the risk.
be physically active.
Physical activity can also be an ally when it comes to fighting BPH, says Harvard Medical School. A study that evaluated the responses to questionnaires of more than 30,000 men concluded that there is an inverse relationship between the practice of physical activity and symptoms of BPH, even among men whose physical activity was of moderate intensity. The ideal is to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes a day, several days a week. You can do this by brisk walking, cycling, swimming or water aerobics. Any physical activity is good to stay active.
control your weight.
Although the correlation between obesity and prostate cancer is limited and controversial, some studies associate it with a higher incidence of the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines obesity as a disease in which “excess accumulated body fat can reach degrees capable of affecting health”, and “this excess results from successive positive energy balances, in which the amount of Energy taken in is greater than the amount of energy expended.
The Body Mass Index (BMI) allows evaluating the ratio between weight and the square of height, that is, the adequacy between weight and height. Pre-obesity is defined as a BMI 25-29.9 Kg/m² and obesity as a BMI >= 30 Kg/m². These people should seek help from a specialized health professional to control their weight.
Get screened from the age of 45 or 50.
To prevent prostate pathology, especially cancer, one of the best pieces of advice is to keep your screenings up to date and make an appointment if and when symptoms appear. “Screening is recommended for men from 50 years old or from 45 years old in men with a family history”, recalls Frederico Ferronha. That is, men whose father or brothers had prostate cancer should start screening earlier. The most common exams are the digital rectal exam and the analysis of the prostate specific antigen (PSA), but the doctor can prescribe others, depending on the specific situation.
Consult the urologist if you have symptoms.
Regardless of age, any man should make an appointment with his attending physician or urologist if symptoms appear, “namely emptying symptoms, such as difficulty urinating, weak urinary stream, hesitation, intermittency and abdominal effort to urinate; storage symptoms such as urgency and nocturia; or even burning or hematuria (blood in the urine).”
Is there medication to reduce the risk of prostate cancer?.
There were some studies that appeared to show that medication used to delay benign prostatic hyperplasia reduced the incidence of some types of cancer. Currently, this idea has been abandoned. “Its effectiveness in preventing cancer has not been proven”, demystifies Frederico Ferronha.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are risk factors with contradictory results in studies: some conclude that they are risk factors for prostate cancer and others do not. They are: being a smoker, having already had prostatitis, having had sexually transmitted diseases – such as gonorrhea –, having had a vasectomy. Urologist online consultation