As June comes to a close, so does National Men’s Health Month which is aimed at encouraging men to take care of their bodies by eating correctly, exercising and increasing their efforts to prevent diseases such as prostate cancer.
According to the National Cancer Registry (NCR), the incidence of prostate cancer in SA almost doubled between 2007 and 2017, with current statistics showing one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime.
Michael Wynn, 49, was diagnosed with colon and prostate cancer in 2019 but says he is now in remission, meaning that the signs and symptoms of his cancer are reduced. “I noticed I was bleeding around my private parts and then went to see a doctor,” Wynn said.
Though he initially felt depressed after his diagnosis, his family, friends and the community were there to support him. Wynn now helps other cancer patients by organising fundraising campaigns . “My 19th campaign started on the June 11 and is dedicated to little Nova de Wet, who is only 11 months old. She is diagnosed with SMA [Spinal Muscular Atrophy] type 1 ,” he said.
Professor Shingai Mutambirwa, a founding member of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of SA (PCF), said prostate cancer was the second most common cause of male cancer deaths and the second most common cancer in men, after skin cancer.
When asked what lifestyle factors may influence the development of prostate cancer, PCF CEO Andrew Oberholzer said: “We always advise men to follow a healthy diet and to be physically active, as this helps to maintain good general health.”
He said the dietary intake of lycopene, the organic pigment that gives tomatoes and some other fruits and vegetables their colour, had been reported to decrease the risk of prostate cancer.
According to the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRFI), studies have indicated that men who consume canned and cooked tomatoes several times a week could benefit from a decreased risk of prostate cancer, compared with men who never consume these foods. While these findings are encouraging, Oberholzer said there was not enough evidence yet to establish a definite link.
“At this stage, the only modifiable risk factor that has been identified is ejaculatory f r e q u e n cy. “There is evidence that men who have more than 21 ejaculations per month have a 20% reduced risk for prostate cancer,” said Oberholzer.
Race is a major risk factor for prostate cancer, with black African men having a 60% increased risk for prostate cancer. They are also about 2.5 times more likely to die from the disease than their white counterparts.
Family history and age are other risk factors, with the incidence peaking between the ages of 65 and 74. It is because of these risk factors that African men and men who have a family history of prostate and/or breast cancer in a first degree relative need to get screened annually from the age of 40.
All men over the age of 45 need to be screened annually as well. In addition, patients with a history of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) and/or with a clinical suspicion of prostate cancer, regardless of their age or race group, should be tested.