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December 31, 2019

A New Year's resolution for older men: Undergo a prostate exam

Men's Health 50-Plus Men
New Year's Resolution: Prostate exam Eric Rothermel/

Sixty percent of prostate cancer cases occur among men older than 65.

Many men believe they are invincible at any age. The last thing on their mind is a trip to the doctor. So what might spark at least a fleeting thought about their health among men over 50? Perhaps a push from those who love them? 

How about prostate cancer

Sixty percent of prostate cancer cases occur among men older than 65 – a figure topped only by skin cancer. And screenings are recommended for high-risk men as early as age 40

The American Cancer Society estimates there were 174,650 new cases of prostate cancer in 2019, an increase of 6 percent from 2018.

Prostate cancer has no known cause, but in addition to age, other risk factors include family history and obesity. African American males are among certain ethnic and racial groups at greater risk.

While screening and a discussion with your doctor are among the preventative tips offered by experts, what’s interesting is the emphasis they place on lifestyle. Diet, exercise and healthy behavior dominate their advice, mirroring many of the general guidelines for all Americans. 

Though there are nuances particular to prostate cancer, the evidence is clear that a healthy lifestyle goes a long way in fighting this affliction, providing yet another reason to contemplate a fresh commitment to your health in 2020.


The American Urological Association recommends screening if you are a man between 55 to 69 years old, African–American or have a family history of prostate cancer. 

The two main screening types, both of which I have experienced, are the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination. If you get an annual physical, it is likely that your doctor will include a blood test with a PSA screen included. No big deal. The rectal exam is no fun, but considering the risk, I’ll endure a few moments of discomfort.


One of the tricky factors with prostate cancer is that some forms are non-aggressive, so there are no obvious symptoms, another plug for screening. 

That said, when there are symptoms, urinary problems are the most likely to occur. These can include the frequent need to urinate and bleeding while urinating; a condition that the experts say should generate an immediate call to your doctor. 

Other symptoms include erectile disfunction and blood in the semen. Again, the experts recommend a conversation with a physician to determine if the conditions are associated with the prostate or another cause. 


So, what can you do to reduce your chances of getting prostate cancer? 

Writing for, Dr. Steven Kim and Elizabeth Connor offer nine tips for men to follow. While the authors acknowledge that some of the tips are gleaned from studies that are limited and ongoing when it comes to a direct link to prostate prevention, they still represent healthy behaviors consistent that provide other benefits. Among their recommendations: 

  1. Eat red foods like tomatoes and watermelon. Recent studies have found that men who consume such foods have a lower risk of prostate cancer.
  2. Eat more fruits and veggies. The nutrients and vitamins contained in fruits and vegetables may lower your risk of getting prostate cancer.
  3. Consider different fat sources. Replacing animal fat with plant-based fats can make a difference. A 2014 study found a potential link between animal facts and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Read the rest of their recommendations here

Like most things in life, when a threat is specific and present, there is heightened motivation to act. If a thought about prostate cancer can prompt you to make that appointment and start living healthy, then you will be ahead of the game this year!

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