What causes prostate problems?
A vast majority of men experience problems with their prostate gland at one point or another.
But many men are unfamiliar with the state of their prostate or the problems it can encounter.
Keep reading to learn which conditions can affect the health of your prostate and what causes them.
Three prostate problems commonly affect men: benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), prostatitis, and prostate cancer.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) occurs when the prostate swells to twice or three times its typical size. 50% of men over 50 have BPH, which then rises to over 90% after 80. As the enlarged prostate grows, it presses against the urethra, which then restricts urine flow.
This can result in the following symptoms:
- Frequent urination: When you have to urinate eight or more times per day.
- Urinary urgency: A sudden urge to urinate that you can’t control.
- Urinary hesitancy: Difficulty starting or maintaining a urine stream.
- Painful urination: Pain when urinating.
- Urinary retention: Inability to completely empty the bladder.
- Blood in urine: This has two forms. Microscopic haematuria is when blood is only detectable under a microscope. Gross haematuria is when blood is apparent and the urine looks red, pink, or brown.
- Incontinence: Involuntary urine leakage.
Prostatitis is an infection or inflammation of the prostate. This condition can affect men of any age but is most common between 30 and 50.
There are four types of prostatitis:
Below are the most common symptoms that men with prostatitis may experience:
- Painful urination.
- Frequent urination.
- Pain in the abdomen, groin, or lower back.
- Blood in the urine or cloudy urine.
- Discomfort or pain in the penis or testicles.
- Pain in the area between the scrotum and rectum (perineum)
- Fever, chills and, body aches (flu symptoms)
- Urethral discharge.
- Burning sensation during ejaculation or sexual dysfunction.
- Pain during sexual intercourse.
Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate gland. The median age for receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis is 66. 60% of all new diagnoses of prostate cancer are in men over 65.
Prostate cancer can result in the following symptoms:
- Painful urination.
- Difficulty urinating or weak flow.
- Nighttime urination (nocturia).
- Loss of bladder control.
- Painful ejaculation.
- Blood in your urine or semen.
- Persistent pain that feels like it originates in the bones.
- More frequent fractures and breaks.
- Swelling in your legs and pelvic area.
- Numbness in the feet, legs, and hips.
Causes of Prostate Problems
There is no concrete evidence for one cause of BPH. However, medical sources agree the condition is most likely linked to aging and the impact the production of testosterone has on older men.
As men age, their production of testosterone (male hormones) naturally diminishes, and their production of estrogen (female hormones) increases.
The change in the hormonal balance is often noticeable as men start to get middle-age spread and lose some of their assertiveness.
Some studies indicate that the body’s system for working off testosterone slows in middle age.
As a result, the body reacts by using this extra testosterone for the production of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). High levels of DHT can cause enlarged prostate tissue growth.
Certain foods can encourage your body to produce these hormones, ultimately causing damage to your prostate’s health.
Daily consumption of red meat increases the chances of developing an enlarged prostate by 38%.
Replace red and processed meats with other forms of protein like fish, chicken, and turkey. You can also get protein from non-meat sources like beans and nuts.
Family history and ethnicity
Family history and ethnicity should also be considered. Men of European ancestry are at a slightly increased risk of developing the condition, particularly those from southern Europe.
Still, other studies show a connection between BPH and lifestyle factors such as high cholesterol, excessive weight, poor diet, and immoderate alcohol consumption.
Those with conditions such as diabetes, a lowered immune system, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and atherosclerosis should also practice caution and remain vigilant for the development of BPH symptoms.
Lifestyle and BPH
The prevalence of metabolic syndrome is due to the western lifestyle (which includes higher intakes of processed food, animal fat, refined carbohydrates, excess calories, and physical inactivity).
These health conditions substantially increase the risk of BPH and advanced prostate cancer.
One example is the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. The male participants underwent a number of prostate examinations (MRI, PSA, and DRE) and anthropometric measurements (weight, BMI, waist and hip circumference) between 1992 and 2002.
The study found that for each 1 kg/m-2 increase in BMI, there was a 0.41 cc increase in prostate volume. Elevated fasting blood sugar levels and diagnosed diabetes were also linked with prostate enlargement.
Low HDL cholesterol and insulin resistance have both been suggested as possible reasons explaining the link between metabolic syndrome and BPH.
If you are looking to treat an enlarged prostate, make natural changes to your lifestyle.
Prostatitis is a complicated condition, and the exact cause is difficult to uncover.
The origins vary according to the type and are as follows:
Prostatitis acute is usually caused by the same bacteria that cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The bacteria might reach your prostate. This can be because of a urine infection, a prostate biopsy, or possibly from the regular use of a catheter.
Chronic Bacterial Prostatitis
A bacterial infection causes chronic bacterial prostatitis. It tends to affect men who’ve had lots of urine infections or an inflamed urethra (urethritis) in the past.
Each episode tends to be caused by the same bacteria, which also cause urine infections. It can develop from acute bacterial prostatitis if antibiotic therapy does not get rid of all the bacteria.
This could be because the bacteria were resistant to antibiotics or because the treatment ended too early.
Chronic Non-bacterial Prostatitis (Chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CP/CPPS
The exact cause is unknown, unlike the other types, which are due to microbes. However, experts found that certain things trigger it. These include urine getting into the prostate, previous UTIs, and nerve dysfunction.
There is also some research indicating that CPPS may be linked to and triggered by other conditions such as stress, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and chronic fatigue syndrome.
The exact cause of asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis is not known.
The research team looked at the semen of 37 men with asymptomatic prostatitis and found that the semen had about eight different types of bacteria. The bacterial count was also related to the high white blood cell count.
Factors that increase your risk of UTIs and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) also increase your risk of having an inflamed prostate. These include:
- Not drinking enough fluids.
- Using a urinary catheter.
- Multiple sexual partners.
- Unprotected vaginal or anal intercourse.
- Old age.
- Recurring UTIs (urinary tract infection).
- Previous cases of prostatitis.
- Having certain genes can make you more prone to have prostatitis.
- Pelvic injuries.
- Inflamed testicles.
- HIV/AIDS infection.
- Stress and mental distress
The exact causes of prostate cancer are still unknown though we have identified some key risk factors that can increase your odds of developing prostate cancer.
There is a strong correlation between your age and your risk of developing prostate cancer.
As discussed above, 60% of all new diagnoses of prostate cancer are given to 65-year-old men or older.
After turning 50 years, prostate cells are more likely to increase in number and size.
After 65 years, it is highly likely to diagnose benign prostatic hyperplasia, and these individuals are at a higher risk of prostate cancer compared to younger patients.
For this reason, prostate cancer screening is appropriate, especially if the patient displays symptoms, has a family history, or a recurrent concern about prostate cancer.
Alternatively, if it is a result of having more buildup of metabolic damage caused by having a longer time to make poor diet, lifestyle, or suffer adverse health events.
There are a few genes that are associated with an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
These may explain why prostate cancer seems to run in some families. However, these genes are likely only to cause a small percentage of prostate cancer cases.
Inherited mutations of the BRCA2 gene can increase your risk of developing prostate cancer.
Men with the genetic condition Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, or HNPCC), have an increased risk for a multitude of tumors, including prostate cancer.
The RNASEL mutation has also been linked to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Normally these gene works to lower your risk of cancer and suppress tumor growth.
However, inherited mutations in this gene seem to let cancerous and abnormal cells live longer than they should. This has been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
The presence of a mutated HOXB13 gene is strongly linked to developing early-onset prostate cancer. This is probably because this gene plays an important role in the development of the prostate gland. While this mutation has been found to run in families, it is, fortunately, very rare.
African Americans and Europeans of African or Caribean descent appear to have a far higher likelihood of developing prostate cancer than their white or Asian counterparts.
The higher risk seems to be entirely genetic though the exact genes responsible are not known.
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), African-American men are approximately 1.6 times more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian-Americans.
The greater likelihood of developing the disease is also matched by 2.4 times greater risk of dying from cancer than white Americans.
Though this number may be being affected by environmental factors, such as cost of treatment, dietary differences, and lower quality medical facilities in predominantly African American areas.
Diet and Lifestyle
There is an increasing body of evidence that diet and lifestyle play a critical role in mitigating prostate cancer risk. This is backed up by the massive difference in the rate of prostate cancer in Western Countries compared to Eastern ones like China, Thailand, and Japan.
There are a number of factors that we should consider.
Firstly, there is a chance that this disparity in prostate cancer rates is genetic. However, there are studies of migrant populations which show quite clear increases in certain diseases like prostate cancer, when ethnic Chinese move to western countries like America.
The change in prostate cancer and, in fact, in cancer risk rates, in general, seems to move with the generations of immigrants.
The first generation’s diet tends to remain fairly similar to what they ate before they emigrated. But, as each subsequent generation assimilates and their diet moves closer to the Standard American Diet (SAD), we see their risk of prostate cancer normalizing with the western average.
We can also rule out environmental factors such as pollution, as explanations of the east-west cancer divide.
A more significant difference is seen in highly urbanized Hong Kong, the rate for prostate cancer was approximately four times that in the rest of China – but still only around 8 men in 100,000.
The Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have rates of prostate cancer similar to those of Hong Kong. And, both cities were attacked with nuclear weapons. So, in addition to the usual pollution-related cancers, one would also expect to find some radiation-related cases of cancer.
It is fairly easy to hypothesize that the fourfold difference in Hong Kong is that Hong Kong is far wealthier and more westernized than the rest of China.
Their diet – especially that of successful and wealthy Hong Kong residents – includes the western quantities of protein, animal fats, and most important of all – dairy fats.
In fact, in China, the slang name for breast cancer in Chinese translates as ‘Rich Woman’s Disease’.
It is worth emphasizing that many Asian countries, such as South Korea and Japan, are densely populated and have been highly industrialized and urbanized for many years, yet their rates of prostate cancer remain much lower than in the West.
The even more massive incidence is seen in the UK at around 40 per 100,000. And greater still is seen in the USA at about 110 per 100,000.
A full breakdown of the best anti-prostate cancer diet can be found in the latest edition of our guide to prostate health “All About The Prostate.”
The data suggest that prostate cancer runs in families, above we have already examined the genetic factors that can cause this.
However, there is probably an argument for some shared environmental considerations.
Whether or not that is a result of consumption of the same diet, and similarity of lifestyle, or an increased chance of shared exposure to carcinogenic substances is unclear.
What we can say for sure is that if your father or brother had or has prostate cancer, then you have twice the risk of the average man of developing prostate cancer in your lifetime.
The risk does not seem to change, for a father or brother. However, the risk is much higher if you have several relatives who had prostate cancer.
The age of your relatives also seems to be a factor. Your doctor or oncologist will take a full family history from you.
The age of your relatives when the tumor was first detected is relevant. The younger they were when the cancer was detected, the higher your likelihood of developing prostate cancer at some point in your life.
Despite there being an apparent genetic and familial risk factor, it is worth noting that most prostate cancers occur in men without a family history of it.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
The medical community is only now coming round to the conclusion that an enlarged prostate (BPH) is a risk factor for prostate cancer.
Medical orthodoxy can take time to change. However, the link is very clear when you examine the research.
There is certainly a strong link between BPH and prostate cancer.
A study at the Copenhagen University Hospital, Herlev, showed that men with BPH have an increased risk of developing and dying from prostate cancer.
The study found that over 27 years, BPH was associated with a two to three-fold increased risk of men developing prostate cancer and with a two to eight-fold increased risk of them dying from prostate cancer when compared to men that did not suffer from BPH.
Other research has reported contradictory findings.
For example, one study found men with smaller prostate sizes were less likely to develop prostate cancer and were less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer tends to develop in the peripheral zone of the prostate, while BPH usually occurs in the transition zone. Thus some scientists argue that there cannot be a direct link between the two conditions.
Men with BPH are more likely to be making regular visits to a urologist and undergoing prostate cancer screenings.
This may explain the link between BPH and prostate cancer. Family history is another strong risk factor that must be accounted for in research studies.
Genes, race, family history, diet, and lifestyle are factors that can affect many different prostate problems.
If you have symptoms of the prostate conditions we mentioned above, visit your healthcare provider.