Leading up to Father’s Day and as part of National Men’s Health Week, the American Cancer Society is raising awareness about risk factors for cancer in men. Among the cancer threats men face, prostate cancer is particularly lethal. In fact, it is the 2nd most deadly cancer for American men behind lung cancer. This year alone in the United States, an estimated 233,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 29,480 men will die from the disease. Prostate cancer is also one of the most costly forms of cancer, with $11.9 billion spent on treatment each year in the US.
Despite these grim statistics, significant progress has been made in the area of prostate cancer research. Geneticists have identified mutations in the “HOXB13” gene as a cause of early-onset prostate cancer and certain protein markers have been found to be correlated with how much the cancer will spread. Advances in detection methods are making early diagnosis easier and more accurate. It is hoped that a new laboratory test currently in clinical trials will lead to fewer false positives and false negatives.
New types of highly focused radiation and ultrasound waves are now able to concentrate treatment more precisely on the prostate and avoid neighboring healthy tissue, reducing the risk of side effects. One of the most difficult decisions for patients and doctors is how to treat newly diagnosed prostate cancer as the prognosis depends heavily on the patient’s age, lifestyle, and health status. Scientists at Research!America member institutions Case Western Reserve University and Johns Hopkins University recently received a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Defense to develop a big data-driven guide to help doctors provide personalized treatment plans for their patients.
There are also promising new findings about potential preventive measures. For example, scientists have found that lycopene and isoflavones may reduce prostate cancer risk and are developing related compounds that may be potent enough to take in pill form.
So much progress against this terrible disease has already been made, and better, more effective treatments for the disease are just over the horizon. More funding for federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coupled with a policy environment conducive to private sector medical innovation is necessary to sustain the research and development that will ultimately conquer this all too-common disease.
This week, in honor of dads everywhere, you can spread awareness about prostate cancer and learn where candidates for Congress stand on the need for more prostate cancer research. Send a message today to your candidates asking if they care about men’s health. Educate yourself, your loved ones, and your elected representatives about the importance of research to improve men’s health and together we can bring an end to prostate cancer.