The risk of prostate cancer has increased so much that projections suggest one in seven boys will develop the disease in their lifetime, experts say.
In 1990, the risk of cancer was one in 20, and experts say the rise can partly be attributed to the fact that men are living longer, meaning more are developing the disease at some point. Another factor is the increased use of the Prostate Specific Antigen test (PSA), which detects life-threatening and non-aggressive types of prostate cancer. However, the PSA does not distinguish between the two forms, which can cause unnecessary anxiety for men.
Doctors are now looking for a more effective way to detect prostate cancer, such as through blood and urine tests and medical scans.
According to Cancer Research UK, the lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer will rise from five percent in 1990 to 14 percent in 2015. On the positive side, however, the cancer death rate has decreased by 20 percent in the last 20 years.
Dr. Sarah Cant of Prostate Cancer UK said, “Although it is heartening that prostate cancer death rates appear to have reduced over recent years, these stats reinforce our concerns that the number of men being diagnosed with the disease is rising at an alarming rate.”
Currently, there is a debate as to whether all men should get a PSA test. Because the test does not distinguish between aggressive and non-aggresive cancers, some of the men diagnosed may be undergoing treatments they don’t need, which can have serious side effects.
Harpal Jumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said, “Targeting the tests at men who have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer might be a better approach than screening all men.”
The strongest risk factor for prostate cancer is age. Typically, men over 50 are more at risk than those under 50. Family history is also another strong risk factor, and men with a first-degree relative are two to three times more likely to develop prostate cancer. Unfortunately, modifiable risk factors have yet to be found, making it difficult to establish a prevention strategy.