Monday, May 23, 2011

Best News in a Long Time - Or, How Not to Get Prostate Cancer

Over the last two weeks I've learned a little bit about prostate cancer, a nasty disease that so many men over 50 seem to get. The problem with prostate cancer is 1) it can kill you, and 2) they treat it by pulling your prostate, which [can, see comments] end your sex life. Not good.

Well, it turns out that the way you avoid having prostate cancer isn't what you might think. Exercise? Doesn't matter. Diet? It might have a very small impact, but they're not sure if you should avoid red meat or eat more fruit and vegetables. Since men who eat lots of red meat tend to avoid fresh fruit and vegetables, it's hard to tell. Smoking? It might matter a very little bit (which I take to mean that if you don't smoke very much it doesn't matter - whew!).

What does matter? It turns out three things. First, get yourself born into a family with no history of prostate cancer (check). Turns out that there's a strong genetic link. Second, drink a lot of coffee. Men who drink three cups a day are 15% less likely to develop the deadly form of prostate cancer (there's a less deadly form?). If you drink six cups a day (caf or decaf) your risk is 30% lower. Third, have LOTS of sex. Men who have sex 14 times a month have 15% lower incidence and those who have sex 21 times a month have a 30% lower incidence. This is all very good news indeed.

I haven't researched this one lately, but I do notice that there's been a recent study showing that the PSA test has NO effect on mortality. I have read somewhere that many prostectomies are unnecessary. The PSA might be zero help in keeping you from dying and lots of help in ending your sex life. Doctors often work like that. If they leave it in, you could die from cancer (and sue them). If they take it out, you won't get prostate cancer, so the operation worked - even if you would never have died from prostate cancer anyway.

I guess bin Laden was pretty safe from prostate cancer, just not safe from a bullet to the head.


  1. Well, we already knew that it is not good for man to be alone.

    On the other hand, my grandfather had a slow-moving form of prostate cancer, and he and my grandmother had nine kids, and judging by the way they acted around each other even in their twilight I'd better quit talking now.

  2. Just a little remark: I had my entire prostate removed five years ago, and everything still works properly. It's a rough operation and recovery, though.

  3. Marshall, that little bit of self disclosure tickles me on so many levels. My wife did some research and discovered that it isn't the prostate that is the critical factor, it's the nerves around the prostate. Some operations take the nerves too, and that ends things. Fifty percent of the men who get the less radical operation come through functional. Influencing factors are age, activity before the procedure, and, presumably, steadiness of hand. I'm praying for your pneumonia, my brother.