Even with all the disruptions we have faced due to COVID-19, as we approach Father’s Day, we should take the time to observe National Men’s Health Week. Promoted for almost 30 years, this special week has reminded millions of men to live healthier, more fulfilling lives through consistent exercise, proper diet, and routine medical care. Importantly, Men’s Health Week draws attention to early detection and treatment of preventable health problems like prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the second most commonly occurring cancer in American men; as many as one in eight will receive a diagnosis.1 The National Institutes of Health estimates 2021 will see nearly 250,000 new prostate cancer cases and recommends that, together with their physicians, men make informed decisions regarding prostate cancer screening only after receiving detailed information on the associated risks and benefits.2 The age for a conversation about screening varies—typically age 50 for individuals who are at average risk, age 45 for those at high risk, and age 40 for those at even higher risk.3 Risks are reflected in life expectancy, race, family history, genetic mutations, and socioeconomic status.4
Being screened for prostate cancer can help prevent the spread of cancerous cells before symptoms occur.5 Although there is no true gold standard, the Prostate Specific Antigen Test (PSA) is commonly used to screen for prostate cancer.5 In general, higher PSA blood levels are thought to mean a greater chance of having prostate cancer.6 Ultrasound and MRI sequences have also been used when more diagnostic specificity is needed. This year marks the 35th anniversary of FDA approval of the PSA test.
Although all men are at risk for prostate cancer, African American men are 1.6 times more likely to develop this type of cancer than men from all other racial backgrounds.7 Unfortunately, the specific form of cancer that occurs in African American men is often more aggressive and progresses faster than other forms.7 Genetics is thought to play a role, as men of African ancestry have an estimated mean genetic risk score (GRS) more than two times that of men with European ancestry.7 A GRS can be an effective means of calculating a genome-wide risk measurement that summarizes a genetic predisposition to prostate cancer.8 Other reasons for more aggressive prostate cancer in African American men include a higher likelihood of obesity than for men of non-African descent, delays in care due to accessibility issues, and financial burden.7
There is no sure way to prevent prostate cancer – especially when uncontrollable factors exist – but there are controllable factors that can help minimize risk. Choose a healthy lifestyle that maintains good health – manage stress, limit alcohol consumption, avoid tobacco products, be physically active, and avoid obesity. A healthy diet should include colorful fruits and vegetables along with whole grains.9 When possible, exclude or limit red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, highly processed foods, high calcium intake, and dairy products.9,10 Daily lifestyle choices can affect short- and long-term health, so even if you don’t see immediate results, please don’t give up.
Veradigm wants to wish men with children a happy Father’s Day on June 20th, 2021. Veradigm would also like to remind all men to not wait until something is seriously wrong before seeking medical support. Understanding health risks is important and taking action will reduce risks. Clinicians should be cognizant of their age specific male patient population and encourage age- and risk-based discussion about prostate screening as part of each male patient’s healthcare journey.