Though prostate cancer is common cancer in men, medical professionals are unsure about its exact causes. However, after having studied its risk factors, they believe that all cases of prostate cancer are caused by mutations which cause specific oncogenes to be turned on and certain tumour suppressor genes to be turned off.
Oncogenes are genes which stimulate the growth of individual cells in the human body, including the prostate. Tumour suppressor genes control cellular growth, repair damage to DNA structures in cells, and contribute to strategic and targeted cellular death.
The mutations which cause the oncogenes to be activated and the tumour suppressor genes to be turned off at the wrong times can be either genetic or acquired.
Inherited genetic mutations
Doctors attribute inherited genetic mutations to 10% of all prostate cancer cases. If a male has inherited the following genetic mutations, you are more likely to develop prostate cancer:
- BRCA1 and BRCA2
- CHEK2, ATM, PALB2, RAD51D
- MSH2, MSH6, MLH1, PMS2 and other DNA mismatch repair genes
Remember that the mutations, as mentioned above, are just a few of the inherited genetic mutations, which can cause prostate cancer. They are explained in more detail below.
BRCA1 and BRCA2
These are the genes that cause most types of breast cancer. Because they are genes which cause mutations in the tumour suppressor genes which usually fix mutated DNA ensuring that the resulting malformed cells die immediately. The result is uncontrolled growth of the rogue cells that cause the tumours that are a reason for the occurrence of breast cancer (in women) and prostate cancer (in men!)
ChEK2 ATM, PALB2, and RAD51D
These are genes which repair cells. If they mutate, it can lead to prostate cancer.
DNA mismatch repair genes
Their job is to fix gene pairs that don’t line up correctly immediately before a cell is getting ready to divide.
This is a gene suppressor gene which kills cells the minute they become dysfunctional. If these genes are turned off, abnormal cells can grow into prostate cancer tumours quickly.
This gene develops prostate gland. Mutations in the HOXB13 gene have been attributed to a higher incidence of prostate cancer
Acquired genetic mutations
These develop in your lifetime – you don’t inherit them from your parents or ancestors. According to the latest research, acquired genetic mutations cause most prostate cancer cases. When genes divide, they copy the DNA of the original cell (mother cell) into the second cell (daughter cell.) If there are mutations in the DNA during meiosis (cell division), they tend to become permanent and accumulate – hence the higher prevalence of prostate cancer.
If you have even one of the risk factors mentioned below, you are more likely to develop prostate cancer.
- Family history
- Gene mutations
- Exposure to chemicals
- Inflamed prostate
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
If you are a male of 40 or above age group, then you are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Men under 40 rarely have prostate cancer. 60% of all prostate cancer cases are in men aged 65 or older.
Men of African ancestry in any part of the world are more prone to developing prostate cancer. Most people with African ancestors who develop this cancer are younger than those in the general population (who develop prostate cancer.) people of Asian and Latino origin are the least likely to develop this disease.
Most cases are in Western nations. These include North America, Northwestern Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean Islands. Though rare, more cases are cropping up in Asian, African, Central and South American nations as people there adopt more westernized lifestyles.
Though doctors have no real idea why this is the case, they believe that the incidence is more significant in developed nations because of better screening and diagnosis procedures. They think that people consume high fat, high calorie processed foods and beverages in developed countries and are less active. The critical factor in preventing and treating many types of cancer, including prostate cancer, is diet and exercise.
Because men in individual families tend to get prostate cancer more often, doctors think that some of the genes that cause prostate cancer may indeed be genetic. If you have a dad, brother, or other male relatives who developed prostate cancer later in life, you are more likely to get it yourself. Remember that most cases of prostate cancer are acquired.
As mentioned earlier, you are more likely to develop prostate cancer if you are a male who has inherited specific genes which include the BRCA1 and two genes or the Lynch Syndrome. Changes in critical genes cause Lynch Syndrome.
Diet doesn’t seem to be as great of a contributing factor, but it is still essential. Doctors are still not exactly sure how diet can play a role in causing prostate cancer. Still, they think that the consumption of red meat or other foods which are high in saturated fat and cholesterol raises your risk of developing prostate cancer slightly. Eating a diet which is rich in fruits, vegetables, and other foods that are rich in antioxidants seems to lower your risk somewhat. Some evidence suggests that you are at a slighter risk of developing prostate cancer if you eat foods which are high in calcium, including ice cream and cheese!
If you are overweight, your chances of developing prostate cancer are no higher than those of the general population. The bad news is that being obese can lower your chances of developing adenocarcinoma and increase your chances of developing the more aggressive and faster-growing prostate cancers. The medical reason for this is not completely clear.
In general, there is no direct or indirect correlation between smoking and getting prostate cancer
Exposure to chemicals
Some chemicals like Agent Orange can slightly increase your prostate cancer risk.
You have prostatitis if your prostate gland is inflamed. Doctors think that this can slightly increase your chances of developing prostate cancer, but they have no clear evidence that proves this.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Some STDs like chlamydia can inflame the prostate which has at times been attributed to prostate cancer.
According to some research, you are more likely to develop prostate cancer if you have had a vasectomy. However, one cannot prove it directly.