Love Your Prostate

Written by: Joshua Gonzalez

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, so we thought we’d devote a blog post to this wonderful walnut-sized gland and give you some tips to help minimize your chances of developing the disease. 

In case you’re not as intimately acquainted with the prostate as we are, we’ll give you a quick refresher. The prostate is located in front of the rectum between the bladder and the penis, and its primary function is to secrete fluid that helps sperm to exit the body. It’s also known as the male G spot and can be responsible for some seriously intense sexual pleasure when stimulated.  

Now, let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men, second only to skin cancer. The American Cancer Society projects that as many as 268,490 new cases of prostate cancer will be reported in 2022 and approximately 34,500 of those men will die from the disease. That’s roughly 13 out of 100 men who will receive a diagnosis and 2 to 3 men out of 100 who will die this year.

The good news is that prostate cancer is highly treatable if caught early with survival rates reaching as high as 98 percent. Risk factors such as age and overall health play a role in the likelihood of being diagnosed with or dying from prostate cancer, so it’s important for all men to know their risk factors, get screened when appropriate and be proactive when it comes to prostate cancer prevention.

Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

Anyone who has a prostate is at some risk for prostate cancer. However, as with most diseases, certain people are more at risk than others. The biggest risk factor for prostate cancer is age. According to the American Cancer Society, about 6 in 10 men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are 65 and older, with 66 being the average age at the time of diagnosis.

Surprisingly enough, your ethnicity may be a risk factor for this type of cancer as well. For instance, African American men are at an increased risk for the disease. Not only are they more at risk of a diagnosis, but they are also likely to be younger when the cancer is found, and they are more than twice as likely to die from the disease. In addition to men of African descent, men of Scandinavian descent have also shown to be at an elevated risk.

Last but not least, family history can be an indicator of prostate cancer risk. If you have family members who have had prostate cancer or if you were diagnosed before the age of 55, it might mean that you have a genetic predisposition for this specific type of cancer. Even having relatives who have had other cancers such as breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer might mean you’re at a greater risk. Make sure to tell your doctor about any relevant family history of cancer when you discuss your options for screening. 

How to Get Screened

Let’s face it. Taking a trip to the doctor to get screened for prostate cancer is not on many people’s fun list. However, the American Urological Association recommends that men ages 55 to 69 should talk to their doctor about getting screened. If you’re at a higher-than-average risk, meaning that you have one or more of the risk factors that we mention above, that age drops down to 40 to 54 years of age. 

When we think about prostate cancer screening, the image of a doctor dramatically pulling on a latex glove with a loud and foreboding snap often comes to mind. The old finger-up-the-butt method’s more formal name is digital rectal examination. During this type of screening, a doctor will manually feel a man’s prostate to see if they feel anything abnormal. Urologists are very adept at performing this test quickly and painlessly, so it’s not nearly as bad as patients often fear. 

Another type of screening is called a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. PSA is made by the prostate, and a blood test to assess the levels of PSA in your body can signal the likelihood of cancer. The higher the levels of PSA in your blood, the higher the chance that you have prostate cancer. However, high levels can also be indicators of other prostate issues such as an infection or having an enlarged prostate. Certain medications can affect the levels of PSA, too. 

A third type of screening is done using an ultrasound wand that can be inserted into the rectum close to the prostate. This prostate or transrectal ultrasound works by transmitting sound waves that can echo back when they hit soft tissue and bone, creating a 2D image of the area probed. These images can show abnormalities in the prostate that may be due to cancer. This method is also relatively quick and painless, and it’s often done in tandem with a biopsy. 

While screening is important, there can be negatives that arise out of screening. If you receive a false positive, you may have to undergo additional tests or biopsies that carry certain risks, such as infection, pain and bleeding. Even with those risks factored in, most doctors believe that the benefits of screening far outweigh the risks. The important thing to know is that cancer screening should be done before you show potential signs or symptoms of prostate cancer, so that the cancer doesn’t have the chance to spread.

Be Proactive About Prevention

If you’re worried about your risks of developing prostate cancer, don’t despair. There are plenty of things you can do on a daily basis to be proactive about its prevention. Not only do most of these measures help to prevent cancer, but they can also make you healthier and happier overall. Things like eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, managing stress and staying hydrated are all ways to lower your risk of developing prostate cancer or any other type of cancer for that matter. 

There’s also a much more fun approach to prostate cancer prevention. It’s ejaculating! Yes, you read that correctly. Ejaculating on a regular basis has been shown to reduce your chances of developing prostate cancer. In a 2016 study, researchers found that men who ejaculated more than 20 times per month reduced their risk of prostate cancer by about 20 percent compared to men who ejaculated only 4 to 7 times per month. 

Increasing the number of times you ejaculate, from sex or masturbation, is thought to flush out toxins and carcinogens in the prostate, the buildup of which could lead to cancer over time. Another study done in 2018 supports this theory by showing that ejaculation frequency is linked to prostate tumorigenesis, which is the gain of malignant properties in cells that lead to the formation of cancer.

Celebrate Your Prostate Every Month

Tiny but mighty, the prostate is one gland that deserves a whole lot of love, so keep it top of mind even after September has ended. When it comes to prostate cancer, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and when prevention includes ejaculation, what have you got to lose? 

We write about the prostate (and ejaculation) a lot, so make sure you check out some of our other blog posts to learn even more about our Popstar supplement, ejaculatory health and all kinds of other fun sex stuff. Until next time, have a happy and healthy September!

Dr. Joshua Gonzalez

Dr. Joshua Gonzalez

Dr. Joshua Gonzalez is a board-certified urologist who is fellowship-trained in Sexual Medicine and specializes in the management of male and female sexual dysfunctions. He completed his medical education at Columbia University and his urological residency at the Mount Sinai Medical Center. Throughout his career, Dr. Gonzalez has focused on advocating for sexual health and providing improved healthcare to the LGBTQ+ community.