Prostate cancer is cancer of the male prostate gland, and typically occurs in men over fifty. In North America, it is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in men; each year, over 200,000 American men and 25,000 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and over 30,000 will die. These numbers make the disease somewhat comparable to breast cancer in women, although breast cancer spreads faster and is more difficult to treat, making it deadlier overall.
The prostate gland is a reproductive organ in men which produces seminal fluid. Cancer of the prostate will spread, like all cancers, but in many cases this particular cancer does so at a very slow rate, so that despite being unsuccessfully eradicated many men will suffer from prostate cancer, live a lengthy period of time, and then die of unrelated illnesses or other causes. The disease becomes progressively more common with age, especially after age 50, and is more common in African-American than in white men. By the time its chief symptoms (like pain during urination) show up, the cancer has become serious enough that it is more difficult, though not impossible, to treat successfully.
The precise cause of prostate cancer is currently unknown, but it is known to be unusually common in North America, and markedly less common elsewhere. This may be because North America features the greatest concentration of known risk factors for prostate cancer in men, including age (developed countries have longer life expectancies), high blood pressure (the North American diet is especially poor, on average), and perhaps some other, as-yet-unknown connection.
Regardless of the genuine cause, the statistics indicate that men in the United States and Canada should be particularly alert to the risk posed to them by prostate cancer. Both Prostate Cancer Canada (in Canada) and the American Cancer Society (in the United States) warn that one in six men in their respective countries will develop prostate cancer. Moreover, about one in six of those men (are about 3% of the total population) will go on to die of prostate cancer.
Fortunately, prostate cancer tends to be a slow-growing cancer and, while it typically has no symptoms in its early stages, it can be easily detected during an annual physical by a medical doctor. This makes annual checkups especially important for men, beginning in their middle ages. Unfortunately a large proportion of men (particularly as compared to women) habitually forego these checkups, and are particularly uncomfortable speaking to their doctor about issues related to reproductive organs. Moreover, prostate cancer has a much lower public profile and earns noticeably fewer research dollars than breast cancer, despite afflicting a similar proportion of the population. For this reason, North American men should be especially careful to limit their risk of prostate cancer by getting annual checkups to detect the disease at an early, easily treatable stage.
– Sources and More Information –
American Cancer Society. “What are the Key Statistics About Prostate Cancer?”
Prostate Cancer Canada. “Prostate Cancer.”