Movember: What you need to know about prostate cancer

Sabina Muminović Last updated: 27 October 2023

Movember is men’s health issues awareness months and we decided to shine a light on what you need to know about prostate cancer and its genetic risk factors.

It’s that time of the year again when plenty of usually clean-shaven men are walking around with moustaches. Why? Because it’s Movember and “Mo Bros” are raising awareness about men’s health issues. We decided to lend them a hand!

What’s Movember all about

Movember’s goal is to “change the face of men’s health”. It’s an annual, month-long awareness campaign that tackles three important men’s health’s issues:

  • prostate cancer,
  • testicular cancer,
  • men’s suicide.

Movember aims to increase early cancer detection, diagnosis, and effective treatments. The campaign aims to reduce the number of preventable deaths and to make men aware of their family history of cancer.

By growing a moustache, men, or “Mo Bros” as they’re called by the Movember charity, become a walking, talking awareness billboard. By now, Movember has created a movement of over 5 million supporters across the world, funding more than 1,200 innovative men’s health projects across more than 20 countries. By 2030 they want to reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25%.

In this article we’re going to look at one of the three issues Movember is dealing with that is closest to GenePlanet – prostate cancer.

What you need to know about prostate cancer

Cancer is the leading global cause of death, responsible for 9.6 million deaths annually, but up to 50% of those could be avoided, or their effects lessened through preventive measures (WHO, 2019).

Prostate cancer represents 10.6% of all new cancer cases in the USA. Considering it is male-specific cancer, this is a very high number.

Let’s see what are its symptoms, what you can do to increase the chances of early detection and what are the best preventive measures.

Happy family of three sitting together

Prostate cancer symptoms

Prostate cancer occurs in the prostate, a small gland in men that produces the seminal fluid which nourishes and transports sperm. Usually, it grows slowly and is initially confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Prostate cancer that’s detected early, when it’s still confined to the prostate gland, has a better chance of successful treatment.

Prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages, but prostate cancer that’s more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • trouble urinating,
  • decreased force in the stream of urine,
  • blood in semen,
  • discomfort in the pelvic area,
  • bone pain,
  • erectile dysfunction.

If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you make an appointment with your doctor. Together you can decide what’s the best next step for you.

Prostate cancer risk factors

Factors that can increase your risk of prostate cancer include:

Prostate cancer is rare in men younger than 40, but the chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50. About 6 in 10 cases of prostate cancer are found in men older than 65.

For reasons not yet determined, men of African ancestry carry a greater risk of prostate cancer compared to men of other races. In these men, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced.

Some studies have found that obese men have a lower risk of getting a low-grade (slower growing) form of the disease, but a higher risk of getting more aggressive (faster growing) prostate cancer. The reasons for this are not clear.

Family history
Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing this disease. The risk is higher for men who have a brother with the disease than for those who have a father with it. The risk is much higher for men with several affected relatives, particularly if their relatives were young when the cancer was found.

Also, if you have a family history of genes that increase the risk of breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2) or a very strong family history of breast cancer, your risk of prostate cancer may be higher.

Genetic changes
Inherited mutations of the BRCA1, BRCA2, ATM, CHEK2, MLH1, MSH2, MSH6 or PMS2 genes, which are linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers in some families, can also increase prostate cancer risk in men (especially mutations in BRCA2). Let’s discuss genetic mutations a bit more as that’s our field of expertise.

Man's face

How genes impact the risk of prostate cancer

Over the course of our lives, mutations occur in our genes that can have a significant effect on their function. Most of these changes are harmless, but some significantly affect our health.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes involved in correcting these changes. If they are faulty, they can’t repair harmful mutations, which can result in health complications, most common of them being breast, ovarian, and other types of cancer. Up to 15% of most cancers are due to an inherited genetic mutation.

Cancer Screen Plus Men by Geneplanet tests 41 genes connected with 16 types of cancers including prostate cancer. You can read more about the test and the methodology on this site.

Cancer Screen is recommended for everyone who wants to discover their health risk and take preventive action on time. It is particularly suitable for individuals who:

  • have a family history of cancer,
  • are from a family with a present known mutation,
  • are from ethnic groups more likely to be carriers of the mutation

If you decide to take the test and get a positive result it means that a pathogenic variant that significantly increases the risk of the development of hereditary cancer was detected. Therefore, your risk of developing cancer is higher than average. A positive test result doesn’t mean that you will certainly develop any kind of cancer in the future.

Your next step after a positive result should be genetic counselling or a doctor’s appointment, where you should talk about individualised prevention steps and early detection methods.

Speaking of prevention steps…

How to reduce prostate cancer risk

You can reduce your risk of prostate cancer if you follow some general guidelines for a healthy lifestyle.

Choose a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables.
Researchers don’t completely understand the relationship between diet and prostate cancer prevention, but studies suggest that certain eating habits may help.

  • Reduce fat intake. Eat less trans fats and saturated fats. Focus on healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids from nuts, seeds and fish.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Incorporate a wide variety of produce, including plenty of leafy greens. The antioxidant lycopene, which is plentiful in cooked or processed tomatoes, has been shown in some studies to slow the growth of prostate cancer cells. Cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli and cauliflower) contain a compound called sulforaphane that may protect against cancer.
  • Add green tea and soy. Clinical trials have suggested that soy may lower PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels, and that green tea may help men who are at high risk for prostate cancer lower their risk.
  • Avoid charred meat. Charred meat, from frying or grilling at high temperatures, may produce a chemical compound that leads to cancer.

Exercise most days of the week.
Exercise improves your overall health, helps you maintain your weight and improves your mood. There is some evidence that men who don’t exercise have higher PSA levels, while men who exercise may have a lower risk of prostate cancer.
Try to exercise most days of the week, even if it’s just a light exercise or a walk. Anything is better than nothing.

Maintain a healthy weight.
Obesity can be a risk factor for developing more aggressive prostate cancer. If your current weight is healthy, work to maintain it by exercising most days of the week. If you need to lose weight, add more exercise and reduce the number of calories you eat each day. Ask your doctor for help creating a plan for healthy weight loss.

Stay sexually active.
Two studies appear to show that men who have a higher frequency of ejaculation (with or without a sexual partner) were up to two-thirds less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Studies are ongoing, but some experts theorize that ejaculation clears the body of toxins and other substances that could cause inflammation.

We hope you have a healthy Movember and that you grow a magnificent moustache (if you’re a man of course). If you have a friend or a relative that should be aware of these issues, please do share the article with them. After all, sharing is caring, especially in this case.



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