Movember a time to consider men’s health

By Jasminee Sahoye

1 in 6 men is affected by Prostate Cancer
1 in 6 men is affected by Prostate Cancer

The spotlight this month, known as Movember, is on raising awareness and funds for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s mental health.

Men have started growing moustaches to raise funds for prostate cancer with the hope of finding new tests.

And researchers continue to look for foods that can help lower prostate cancer risk. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), scientists have found some substances in tomatoes and soybeans that might help prevent prostate cancer. Studies are now looking at the possible effects of these compounds more closely.

“Scientists are also trying to develop related compounds that are even more potent and might be used as dietary supplements. So far, most research suggests that a balanced diet including these foods as well as other fruits and vegetables is of greater benefit than taking these substances as dietary supplements,” the ACS states.

It adds, some studies have suggested that certain vitamin and mineral supplements (such as vitamin E and selenium) might lower prostate cancer risk. But a large study of this issue, called the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), found that neither vitamin E nor selenium supplements lowered prostate cancer risk after daily use for about five years. In fact, men taking the vitamin E supplements were later found to have a slightly higher risk of prostate cancer.

Another vitamin that may be important is vitamin D. Recent studies have found that men with high levels of vitamin D seem to have a lower risk of developing the more lethal forms of prostate cancer. Overall though, studies have not found that vitamin D protects against prostate cancer.

Recent research has shown that high doses of vitamins and other natural substance may be harmful, including those supplements marketed specifically for prostate cancer. In a study, it was found that men who take more than seven multivitamin tablets per week may have an increased risk of developing advanced prostate cancer.

Meanwhile, a recent study found a link between the number of sexual partners a man has had in his lifetime and prostate cancer risk.

The study conducted by a group of researchers from the University of Montreal yielded conclusive yet varying findings based on the subjects’ “sexual orientation”.

For heterosexual men who’ve slept with 20 or more women in their lifetime, the chances of developing prostate cancer lowered by as much as 28%. Their risk of developing the most aggressive types of cancer decreased by 19%.

The study also discovered that men who had never had sex were almost twice as likely to get prostate cancer compared to those with “active” sex life (with women).

The researchers say the quantity of sexual partners as it relates to prostate cancer risk yielded quite the opposite findings for gay men. It found they have doubled their risk of having the said disease for those who had sex with more than 20 men. Their risk of developing a less aggressive prostate cancer also increased by a whopping 500% compared with monogamous gay men.

The study involved 3,208 men surveyed on their lifestyle and sexual experiences and practices. Of these, 1,590 were diagnosed with prostate cancer between September 2005 and August 2009, while 1m618 men were part of the control group.

It revealed that men who developed prostate cancer were twice as likely to have a relative with prostate cancer but what astonished the researchers more was the link between frequency of sexual intercourse with different partners and prostate cancer.

Marie-Elise Parent, one of the authors of the study, suggested that heterosexual men have more ejaculations, which previous studies attribute to a lower concentration of carcinogenic crystal-like substances in the fluid of the prostate.

“It is possible that having many female sexual partners results in a higher frequency of ejaculations, whose protective effect against prostate cancer has been previously observed,” Parent said.

The research, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, is the first of its kind to make a link between the number of sexual partners and the risk of developing cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men (excluding skin cancers) and is the third leading cause of death from cancer in men in Canada. The risk of prostate cancer increases as men age. It usually grows slowly and can often be completely removed or managed successfully if detected and treated early.