Prostate cancer, a disease of the male reproductive system, is the second-most common cancer and the second-leading cause of death among men in the United States. Although specific causes are not completely understood, doctors believe that some risk factors increase a person’s likelihood of developing the disease. These risk factors can include age, ethnicity, family history and diet. Asbestos exposure is another potential risk factor that has been studied.
Men older than 50 are at the highest risk for prostate cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimates more than 240,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. This means that one in six U.S. men is diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lives, and one in every 36 men dies from it. However, multiple treatment options are available to patients who have been diagnosed. While specific risk factors may increase your chance of developing prostate cancer, these factors do not guarantee that you will actually develop the disease.
Multiple studies have been performed that show a potential link between asbestos exposure and prostate cancer. Although none have produced conclusive results, many have shown potential correlations. A 1993 Danish study tested workers at an asbestos cement factory for their exposure to asbestos. An elevated number of prostate and lung cancer cases were recorded among the workers. Researchers found a 36 percent increase in the observed number of prostate cancers compared to the expected amount.
The American College of Chest Physicians released a similar study in 1980. The study, “Presence of Asbestos Bodies in Organs Other than the Lung,” examined 37 people who died from asbestos-related pulmonary issues. It determined that someone with asbestos fibers or residue in the lungs was likely to have them in other organs as well. Doctors looked at various organs and discovered about half contained asbestos. Of 14 prostate samples, six contained asbestos bodies.
More recently, a 2003 study analyzed participants of the Finnish Asbestos Screening Campaign. The study followed the health of 23,285 men and 930 women who worked with asbestos. These individuals were studied for eight years for cancer occurrence. Results indicated a much higher incidence of prostate cancer when compared to the total Finnish population. Participants were also at a significantly higher risk to develop mesothelioma and lung cancer.
These studies show an association between asbestos exposure and prostate cancer. Although extensive research on the topic is limited, these existing findings do provide some insight into potential causal relationships. More research and studies are required to provide definitive conclusions on this relationship.
Free information, books, wristbands and more for patients and caregivers.Get Your Free Guide
There are options for patients diagnosed with prostate cancer. Because of the extensive history of the cancer, studies and research have produced multiple treatment options to control cancerous growth, treat symptoms or simply improve a patient’s quality of life.
Watchful waiting: This is the close monitoring of symptoms to see if any changes occur. This is more common in an early-stage diagnosis.
Surgery: This option is best reserved for patients who are in good health.
Radiation therapy: This treatment option uses radiation to kill cancer cells and slow their growth.
Hormone therapy: This can remove specific hormones or block their action in order to control the cancer.
Chemotherapy: This involves the use of drugs to kill cancerous cells or stop them from dividing.
When considering the best treatment option, you and your doctor should consider your age and your expected life span, the stage of your cancer, side effects of treatment and any other serious health concerns or conditions that you may have.
It is also possible that you will want to examine the option of more cutting-edge treatments, available through clinical trials.
Karen Selby joined Asbestos.com in 2009. She is a registered nurse with a background in oncology and thoracic surgery and was the director of a tissue bank before becoming a Patient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center. Karen has assisted surgeons with thoracic surgeries such as lung resections, lung transplants, pneumonectomies, pleurectomies and wedge resections. She is also a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators.