The prostate is a tiny gland. It is silent, dutiful, but quite capable of wreaking vengeance for abuse.
Prostatitis, prostate hypertrophy [enlargement], and prostate cancer are the most frequently encountered problems.
Despite much conjecture, aging of the male is seldom the principal reason. Many men reach their 70's and 80's without experiencing prostatic disorders.
In advanced societies, however, the incidence of prostatic malfunctioning is rising to alarming proportions. The curve upward in statistics of prostate diseases seems to parallel the increase in heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other degenerative illnesses.
Medical science is beginning to acknowledge that the modern diet may be contributing to these scourges. The prostate is probably another example of this vulnerability.
Structurally, the prostate is the size of a walnut, shaped like a pyramid. It consists of 40 or 50 tubes, sac-like glands, connected to ducts, and lined with mucus and muscle. The nutrients and blood flow that reach other vital organs are also responsible for the health and integrity of the prostate.
The prostate gland lies between the urethra and rectum. It also provides a passageway for the excretion of urine. Therein lies much of the pain, discomfort, and inflammation growing out of an impediment to the normal flow of excretory fluids.
A major function of the prostate seems to be the production of sperm cells. It is also supposed that specific hormones and enzymes are manufactured there. However, science knows little about their functions. Nature, though, has not been known to waste space or energy, so the prostate is still shrouded in mystery.
Prostatitis in Youth and Adulthood
Inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis) cuts across all age levels. It is caused either by infection or irritation.
The gland is especially vulnerable to bacterial invasion that may seep from toxic waste emanating from the colon. Males who ingest large quantities of animal products, with the subsequent long-term intestinal putrefaction, may contract such infections.
Bacteria also travels from infected teeth, tonsils, and sinuses. A venereal disease, or a past history of one, could affect the prostate in this manner.
Congestion, another form of prostatitis, may be the result of unresolved sexual excitement. Incitation without subsequent release creates a backing-up of sperm that can cause future distress.
The problems of overindulgence are also significant. In his book, Look Younger, Think Clearer, Live Longer, Dr. Edwin Flatto characterizes the function as "sexual gluttony."
Dr. Flatto makes a case for reasonable abstemiousness in sex, as well as in other aspects of life. Sex, he cautions, could be hazardous to one's health.
Swelling and enlargement of the prostate gland, experienced usually by males over the age of 40, has led many doctors to label the condition one of aging. It could also be considered the result of cumulative neglect.
Research is proving that males who suffer from prostatic hypertrophy are usually low in their intake of vitamin C, zinc, and fatty acids (nuts, seeds, etc.).
Obesity, sedentary habits, and a diet high in animal fats have also been implicated in this form of prostate disease.
Cancer of the Prostate
Prostate cancer joins the ranks of all other forms of the devastating disease in resisting categorization. No one has proved what causes it, nor has orthodox medicine provided a formula for either prevention or cure. Surgery and hormone therapy are the only approved modalities.
There are reasons to believe that prostate cancer may be linked to deficient diets. Ovarian, breast, and bladder cancers are being recognized as having relationships to diets high in animal fats.
The consumption of beer in large quantities has been related to rectal and bladder cancers. Stomach cancer is high in populations subsisting on smoked or preserved meats, fish, and chicken. Alcohol and smoking are related to mouth cancer and smoking to lung cancer.
Probably the most neglected area of cancer research is that of prostatic carcinoma. We hope that nutritional therapy in degenerative diseases has made enough converts in the scientific community to bring the mystery of prostatic disorders under the same scrutiny.
Lying deep within the recesses of the male anatomy is a gland that dominates the life of every man.
To the average person, the prostate is an enigma. Hardly anyone knows where it is located, what are its functions, or the causes of its malfunctioning.
To some extent, even the medical profession shares in this bewilderment
Too often, when illness strikes, the recourse is needless surgery.
Genetic Risks Associated With Prostate Cancer
A man's genetic background may contribute to his risk of prostate cancer, as there has been an increased incidence of this cancer in certain racial groups, in identical twins of men with prostate cancer, and in men with certain genes.
In the United States, prostate cancer more commonly affects African-American men than men of Caucasian, Hispanic, or Asian descent. Studies of twins in Scandinavia suggested that 40 percent of prostate cancer eases can be explained by inherited factors.
Men with a brother or father with prostate cancer have twice the usual risk. Two genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) that are important in ovarian and breast cancer in women are also implicated in prostate cancer. However, no single gene is responsible for prostate cancer; many different genes have been suggested.
(Source: American Association for Cancer Research Conference, November 2007, Atlanta.)
MEDICAL NEWS FROM AROUND THE WORLD Calcium May Prevent Breast Cancer Spread
AUSTRALIA — A strong skeleton may be less likely to be penetrated by metastasizing cancer cells. Researchers found that a calcium deficiency might increase the tendency of advanced breast cancer to target bone. They reasoned that dietary calcium might help to prevent the spread of breast cancer to bone and might serve as an additional treatment during therapy.
About 70 percent of patients who develop advanced breast cancer have secondary tumors in the bone. The spread of cancer to bones often leads to cellular processes that physically break down existing bone, leading to further pain and illness.
In fact, the breakdown of bone and subsequent bone re-growth forms what senior author Colin R. Dunstan, Ph.D., termed a vicious cycle that turns bone into an environment conducive to cancer growth.
To better understand the role of bone turnover in the spread of cancer, Dr. Dunstan and his team compared the effects of low-calcium and high-calcium diets. They found that dietary calcium deficiency — independent of the chemical factors that controlled turnover — was related to a significantly higher increase in cancer cell proliferation and the total proportion of bone, which had been penetrated.
(Source: Cancer Research, 2007; 67:9542-9548.)
Link Between AMD And Cancer Mortality
AUSTRALIA — Researchers from the Centre for Eye Research at the University of Melbourne evaluated signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in more than 10,000 persons 49 to 73 years of age in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. All of the patients were free of cancer. Over 10 years, 234 patients died of cancer, and there were 464 cases of early AMD.
After the researchers controlled for age, sex, race, education, smoking status, pack-years of smoking, body mass index, and diabetes mellitus, early AMD was associated with cancer mortality. This association was stronger overall in the African-Americans than in the Caucasians. In the African-American individuals, early AMD was associated with a five-fold higher risk of lung cancer deaths. The researchers concluded that middle-aged African-American individuals with early AMD might be at increased risk of dying of cancer.
(Source: Archives of Ophthalmology, 2007;125:1241-1247.)
Can Fatherhood Affect Prostate Cancer Risk?
DENMARK — Whether fatherhood can affect the risk of prostate cancer remains controversial. Evidence has suggested that childless men might be at a lower risk of prostate cancer than men with children and that men who father sons might be at lower risk than men with daughters only.
Kristian T. Jørgensen, M.Sc, of the Statens Serum Institut, in Copenhagen, Denmark, analyzed data from all men born in Denmark between 1935 and 1988. Among this group, 3,400 developed prostate cancer. Men without children were 16 percent less likely than those with children to have prostate cancer during up to 35 years of follow-up.
Among fathers, there was also a gradually reduced prostate cancer risk with an increasing number of children. The authors suggested that, theoretically, this might reflect a "healthy father" phenomenon, in which men who retained fertility were less likely to develop a malignancy.
(Source: Cancer, 2008; 112: 919-923.)
Depression Increases Risk of Breast Cancer
NETHERLANDS — Could depression raise the risk of breast cancer? Conducting a systematic review of the literature, Dr. Marjan van den Akke of Maastricht University observed a slight link between depression and an increased risk of cancer.
The research group examined data from 13 studies involving more than 127,000 patients. From eight studies with complete data, they calculated that the overall risk of cancer was increased by 12 percent in depressed individuals.
Examining data from seven studies, they noted no significant association between depression and breast cancer. However, a subgroup of studies that included at least ten years of follow-up showed a significant association; patients with depression had a 2.5-fold increased risk of breast cancer compared with patients who were not depressed. The authors suggested that it was difficult to distinguish the potential effects of anti-depressants and depression, on the occurrence of future cancer.
(Source: Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health, December 3, 2007.)
Mating and Obesity
SCOTLAND — When people choose a partner for a relationship, there can be Complex reasons for their choices. Scientists call this phenomenon "assortative mating." A study reveals that people also choose partners with a body fatness similar to that of their own.
Dr. John R. Speakman and his team hypothesized that this trend might be contributing to the obesity epidemic; overweight people seem to choose a partner who is also overweight. As a consequence, they pass on to their children a double dose of the genes that have made them susceptible to being overweight or obese.
The team measured the body composition of 42 couples, using a sophisticated technique called dual- energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). DXA is a more accurate and reliable method of assessment than body mass index (BMI). DXA showed that the amount of body fat in one person of the couple was proportionately similar to that of their partner's.
Coauthor Dr. Diane Jackson indicated that previous studies had shown a link between couples and BMI. She explained that it had also been suspected that BMI might be linked to other characteristics that people choose their partner by, such as social class or age.
The investigators corrected their results for all these other factors, however. Using DXA, they were found that assortative mating for body fatness was not linked to the length of time that a couple had lived together. How these associations come about remains unclear. Dr. Speakman speculated that perhaps the social activities of the overweight or obese people coincide, making them more likely to meet partners who are also overweight or obese.
In order for assortative mating for body fat to have contributed to the obesity epidemic, it would need to increase over time. The authors suggest that this has probably been the case. Dr. Speakman clarified that in the 1940's and 1950's, most people were married in their early 20's, before they had become overweight or obese. It would have been difficult for individuals living in those times to mate for body fatness, because it would have been impossible to distinguish someone Who was thin from someone who was thin but who was going to gain weight.
Today, people choose partners and have children much later. However, if individuals are going to become obese, they do so at a much younger age, on average, which makes it possible for potential partners to select each other on the basis of body fatness.
(Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007;86:316-323.)
(Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Nutrition Health Review, Issue #31.)
By Francis Williamson