Prostate cancer is now the most common non-skin cancer affecting American men. In 1999 approximately 179,300 new cases will be diagnosed. Although widespread testing and new diagnostic tools have resulted in earlier diagnosis, there is still concern that not enough is being done to educate the public about prostate cancer, and how it is treated.

The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age, typically occurring in men age 40 or older - more than 80% of newly diagnosed men are over 65. However, younger men can also be affected. Other factors can also put someone at higher risk for the disease. For example, studies are underway to determine why men of some races are more prone to prostate cancer than others -- African-American men now have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world, while Asian men have the lowest.

While many risk factors for prostate cancer are known, the cause (or causes) remains unknown. Researchers do agree that hormones play some role. There is also speculation about diet and industrial cancer-causing agents, and genetic factors have recently become suspect. For a comprehensive discussion of research on causes and risk factors from the American Cancer Society click here.

Because prostate cancer is, compared with other types of cancer, relatively slow growing, there are also differing recommendations on early detection and screening, especially if you are over 50. Many older men with prostate cancer die with it, but not from it.

With causes difficult to pinpoint, it is not surprising that ways to prevent prostate cancer are also hard to define. To this end, the National Cancer Institute is undertaking the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, to study if new medications can help prevent prostate cancer in men ages 55 years and older. There are some natural prostrate health treatments coming onto the market but their efficacy is unproved and should only be taken in addition to prescribed medication in consultation with your specialist.The first ever cancer immunotheraphy vaccine called Provenge has been approved for the treatment of advanced Prostrate cancer by the FDA.

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Also, continuing results of another Prostrate Cancer prevention phase 111 trial show that regular use of propecia(Proscar®) for up to 7 years decreased the risk of low-grade prostate cancer in men age 55 and older compared with that in men who received a placebo. Although high-grade cancers were more common in the finasteride group, the finasteride and placebo groups had similar 15-year overall survival rates.

If you or someone you love has just been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you will likely have many questions. Educating yourself about prostate cancer and its treatment will help you participate more fully in your own care, and feel more comfortable making decisions about your own treatment. Keep in mind that it is important to discuss what you learn with your doctor and other members of your health care team, as they know your particular situation the best.