What causes prostate cancer in young males?

Prostate cancer is typically associated with older men. However, the condition is increasingly being diagnosed in younger men under 55. While genetics does play a crucial role, with family history and specific gene mutations heightening the individual’s risk, other factors like lifestyle and diet may also contribute. Discover more about what causes prostate cancer in young males as Bloom Financial Services, together with medical partner, Momentum Health4Me explore the causes, prevention and treatment of prostate cancer in younger men, improving the recovery outcomes and quality of life. 

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the prostate, which is a small gland in men that produces seminal fluid. It is one of the most common cancers in men, with the Cancer Association of South Africa confirming that the lifetime risk is one in 15. 


Prostate cancer symptoms

Prostate cancer often develops slowly and may not cause noticeable symptoms in its early stages. It’s difficult to determine what causes prostate cancer in young males. However, as the cancer progresses, symptoms and signs of prostate cancer in men can manifest. Some of these include the following: 

  • Difficulty urinating: This includes a weak or interrupted flow of urine, difficulty starting or stopping urination, and straining to urinate. It occurs because the growing tumour presses against the urethra, inhibiting normal urination. 
  • Frequent urination: Due to the increased pressure on the bladder, an individual with prostate cancer will feel the urge to urinate more frequently, especially noticeable at night.
  • Blood in urine or semen: This is known as hematuria (blood in urine). This symptom indicates that the cancer has started to affect the blood vessels in the prostate.
  • Painful urination or ejaculation: This discomfort is caused by the cancer tumour as it presses on the prostate and surrounding tissues.
  • Pelvic discomfort: An individual with prostate cancer could experience pain in the pelvic area, lower back or hips. This is a result of the cancer spreading to the bones.
  • Erectile dysfunction: Difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection is one of the signs of prostate cancer, as the disease affects nerve function.
  • Loss of bladder control: In advanced cases, prostate cancer can spread to the spine and press on the spinal cord, leading to loss of control over the bladder.
  • Bone pain: Persistent pain in the bones, especially in the back or hips. This can be an indication that the cancer has metastasised to the bones.
  • Unintended weight loss and fatigue: These general symptoms can occur as the body uses more energy to fight the cancer, and can also result from cancer spreading to other parts of the body.


Causes and risk factors of prostate cancer

There are several risk factors associated with an increased likelihood of developing the disease. These include:

  • Genetic factors. Having a father, brother, or son with prostate cancer significantly increases a man’s risk of developing the disease. The risk is higher if multiple family members are affected or if they were diagnosed at a young age. Certain inherited genetic mutations, such as those in the BRCA1, BRCA2, and HOXB13 genes, increase the risk of prostate cancer. These mutations are also linked to other cancers.
  • Age. Typically, the risk of prostate cancer increases with age, particularly after the age of 50. The majority of cases are diagnosed in men over 65. However, younger men can develop the disease. 
  • Diet and lifestyle. An unhealthy diet that is high in fatty red meat and high-fat dairy products; and low in fresh fruits and vegetables may increase the risk of prostate cancer. Obese men, in particular, diagnosed with prostate cancer may have a higher risk of advanced disease and recurrence after treatment.
  • Hormonal factors. Higher levels of testosterone and related hormones may stimulate the growth of prostate cancer cells.
  • Inflammation and infections. Chronic inflammation of the prostate, which can be caused by infections, may be a contributing factor to prostate cancer. 


Significance of early-stage prostate cancer

What causes prostate cancer in young males? Early onset prostate cancer, which qualifies as men under the age of 55, is significant due to its rarity and often aggressive nature compared to cases in older men. This form of prostate cancer can be more challenging to detect and manage, as younger men are less likely to undergo routine screening, leading to later-stage diagnoses when symptoms become noticeable. 

The significance of early-onset prostate cancer lies in its impact on patients’ quality of life and long-term health. Younger men diagnosed with this condition face more years of living with the consequences of the disease and its treatment, which can include urinary, sexual, and psychological issues. Early detection and treatment are critical to improve outcomes and reduce the burden of this disease on younger patients. This includes having regular medical screenings to detect the disease early. 


3 Effective preventive measures and screenings for prostate cancer 

Early detection through regular screenings, as well as committing to a healthy lifestyle can significantly impact the management and outcome of prostate cancer. Some of the recommended medical screenings include the following: 

1. PSA Test (Prostate-Specific Antigen) is a blood test that measures the level of PSA, which is a protein produced by the prostate. Higher levels of PSA can indicate prostate cancer or other prostate conditions. It is recommended that an individual have this test annually or biennially, especially for men over 50, or 45 who are automatically at higher risk.

2. Digital rectal exam (DRE). A doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel for abnormalities in the prostate. This exam helps the medical professional detect physical changes or lumps.

3. Genetic testing. This is where an individual can be tested for inherited mutations like BRCA1, BRCA2, and HOXB13. The purpose of the test is to identify high-risk individuals who may benefit from early and more frequent screenings.

Smart lifestyle choices and preventive measures are recommended, in addition to medical screenings. Following a healthy, balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and overall health. It’s also advisable to avoid smoking (or secondary smoking) as smoking is linked to more aggressive prostate cancer. 


Treating prostate cancer

If an individual has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, he must undergo treatment to manage the disease and promote recovery. This will involve;

  • Active surveillance. This involves regular monitoring of the prostate cancer’s progression. Regular PSA tests, digital rectal exams (DRE), and possibly biopsies are required. 
  • Surgery. Removal of the entire prostate gland and some surrounding tissue is sometimes recommended. It’s a common option for cancer confined to the prostate. 
  • Radiation therapy. External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT), which is a high-energy radiation, is directed at the prostate from outside the body and is used to decrease the size of the tumour. 
  • Brachytherapy: radioactive seeds are implanted directly into the prostate to destroy the cancer cells or shrink tumours.
  • Hormone therapy. Medication can be prescribed to lower a man’s testosterone levels or block its effects. This is because testosterone can fuel prostate cancer growth. This treatment is usually used for advanced prostate cancer or in combination with other types of treatment.
  • Chemotherapy. This treatment is used to kill cancer cells, typically for cancer that has spread outside the prostate.
  • Immunotherapy. This can be used to boost the body’s immune system to fight cancer and is typically used for advanced prostate cancer.

Get health insurance from Bloom 


You can rely on our healthcare cover should you need to see a specialist for conditions like prostate cancer. Bloom Financial Services offers flexible and affordable health insurance, medical aid and gap cover that suits your needs and budget. Contact our offices and speak with one of our trained consultants to discuss which healthcare plan would suit you, or apply for health insurance online. 

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