February is National Cancer Prevention Month and a perfect time to revisit your lifestyle choices and review your medical and family history. While taking steps to prevent cancer doesn’t completely eliminate your risk, it can help reduce specific factors which contribute to the disease.
At GBU, our physicians diagnose and treat urological cancers, including prostate cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, and testicular cancer. Risk factors for each disease vary. Some risk factors can be reduced by lifestyle choices, while others are inherited. Knowing your risks can provide valuable insight that may help prevent cancer or aid in an early diagnosis.
As with all content on Greater Boston Urology's blog, the following information is educational in nature, not medical advice. Always talk to your physician about your specific health care questions and conditions.
[Editor's note: Updated on 4/17/21]
As a man ages, the chance of developing prostate cancer increases. The American Cancer Society reports that nearly six in 10 men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are over the age of 65. African American and Caribbean men of African ancestry are more likely to have prostate cancer than men of other races.
Though the reason is still undetermined, prostate cancer occurs more often in North America, Northwestern Europe, Australia, and on the Caribbean islands. In less developed areas, this may be attributed to lower rates of cancer screening. If you’re considered high-risk for developing prostate cancer, or have a family history of the disease, talk to your doctor about screening. Prostate screenings are recommended by the American Urological Association for all men age 55 to 69.
The American Cancer Society states that smoking is the most significant risk factor associated with bladder cancer. Exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace, such as benzidine and beta-naphthylamine, may also increase your risk. The industries which present the greatest risk for developing this type of cancer include textile, rubber, and leather manufacturers. A person’s age, race, and ethnicity may also play a role. According to the American Cancer Society, Caucasians are twice as likely to develop bladder cancer as African Americans.
High blood pressure, obesity, and smoking all increase your risk of developing kidney cancer. Family history may also contribute to an increased chance of the disease, as well as certain family conditions like Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome. VHL is a rare disease that runs in some families and causes cysts and tumors. Check out the article we wrote: 15 facts about kidney cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, one of the most prevalent risk factors for this type of cancer is cryptorchidism, a condition in which one or both testicles fail to descend from the abdomen into the scrotum before birth. Men with cryptorchidism are several times more likely to develop testicular cancer. Age also contributes to a man’s risk, with half of diagnoses occurring between the ages of 20 and 34.
It’s important to remember that those who are considered to be at a higher risk for a disease than others may never develop cancer at all. Determining your risk factors merely provides medical professionals and individuals with an opportunity to diagnose and treat an illness early, for the best possible outcome.
If you're concerned about your risk for cancer, talk to your doctor or consider making an appointment with one of our urologists.