Prostate cancer is on the rise in the UK, with 47,700 men diagnosed each year. With so many men affected, we asked prostate cancer expert Mr Marc Laniado if there’s anything you can do to reduce your own risk – and whether it’s worth having regular check-ups.
How can I reduce my risk of prostate cancer?
There are many ways to reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), including:
- Increasing your exercise levels to 5 hours a week.
- Losing weight and keeping your body mass index (BMI) to between 20 and 25.
- Adopting a Mediterranean diet with food that does not cause inflammation.
- Reducing the consumption of total protein, especially from dairy products and red meat.
- Increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables containing polyphenols (cruciferous vegetables, lycopenes, concentrated tomato sauces).
- Having about 250mg daily of omega-3 fatty acids from marine sources (e.g. krill) – but do not take it in excess.
- Reducing alcohol consumption and stopping smoking.
- Keeping vitamin D levels at least reasonable, which usually means having vitamin D supplements from autumn to spring.
Are there any drugs doctors can prescribe?
Some drugs have been shown to reduce the chance of needing surgery for problems due to BPH including finasteride and dutasteride.
These shrink the prostate slowly over time by about 20%. Sometimes that is enough to avoid urinary symptoms or needing an operation. They also reduce the chance of low-risk prostate cancer, although there has been controversy over the potential of getting higher risk prostate cancer.
These drugs can cause some sexual side effects such as reduced quality of erections, semen volume and libido. Many men choose not to take the drugs because of the sexual side effects.
Should I have my prostate regularly checked?
There is no national screening programme for prostate cancer or benign prostatic enlargement (BPH) in the UK or any other country.
Currently, there is no recommendation for this by official bodies in the UK such as NICE or the British Association of Urological Surgeons. There are many reasons for this, which include the variability in the quality of tests and treatment available throughout the country.
Studies show that regular testing for prostate cancer compared to no testing prevents some lives being lost to prostate cancer. Saving lives is obviously good, but the problem is that testing and what follows must be performed well to avoid causing more harm than good. Screening for early prostate problems needs to be carried out in a way that is sensitive, safe, and personalised to the individual men.
If you have urinary symptoms or a family history of prostate problems and are in good general health, then annual checks by a GP may be sensible from age 45 years up to about 70 to 75 years providing your general health is good.