Prostate Gland - what it is and what does it do?
The prostate is a gland which is exclusive to men. It’s normally about the size and shape of a walnut, and sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, the narrow tube through which men pass their urine and semen. A normal-sized prostate weighs approximately 20 grams. Its primary job is to produce some of the semen, which is the fluid that carries sperm. Prostate fluid is, therefore, essential for a man’s fertility. During sex, the seminal fluid produced in the prostate gland flows through the urethra, lubricating the sperm that is produced in the testicles and forms semen. Semen is therefore sperm plus seminal fluid.
There are 3 common prostate problems that are plaguing black men in particular:
- Enlarged Prostate – the most common
- Prostatitis – Inflammation or infection in the prostate
- And, of course, Prostate Cancer
Prostate Cancer - what is it?
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in the United States, and although it doesn’t lead in diagnosis, it causes the most cancer deaths in American men than any other form of the disease.
Black men have the highest rates of prostate cancer diagnosis than any other race. In fact, each year, approximately 160 out of every 100,000 African-American men receive a positive prostate cancer diagnosis. That’s a whopping three times higher than the comparative figure for white American men. According to published data, African-American men are 1.6 times more susceptible to develop prostate cancer, and over 2 times more likely to die from the disease than white men.
The disparity in mortality rate between African-American and white men is higher for prostate cancer than it is for any other malignancy. What is also peculiar, is that the number of African-American men diagnosed is higher than the number of black men diagnosed annually with prostate cancer in Africa. This is evident to the fact that dietary and environmental conditions play a pivotal role within carcinogenesis. What is even more damning is that, despite the recent decline in prostate cancer incidence, the overall prostate cancer-related mortality continues to rise among African-American men.
Enlarged Prostate - what is it?
Enlarged prostate is also called benign prostatic hyperplasia. As the term benign in the name suggests, it is not a form of cancer. Hyperplasia describes the increased overgrowth of organic tissue that results from cell proliferation. An enlarged prostate is common for men eating a standard American diet (SAD).
After the age of 40, the prostate gland is often subject to hyperplasia, growing and increasing in weight, from the normal 20 grams sometimes up to 100 grams. This growth encroaches upon the functionality of the urethra. This squeezing phenom narrows the urethra, slowing down the flow of urine progressively over time.
The urinary stream becomes weak, and may dribble, or even stop and start. As the urine stream weakens a plethora of ailments becomes inevitable. There are two valves that must open to allow male urination, the internal and external sphincters. Delays in the opening of these sphincters are commonly due to obstructions in the urethra. caused by an enlarged prostate. Sufferers may become prone to constant urges to urinate, leaking, and incomplete bladder emptying. Stored urine eventually crystallizes, and crystals come together to form stones either in the bladder or in the kidneys. These stones also block the urethra. This can result in chronic urinary retention, where the bladder stores more and more urine. The normal capacity of the urinary bladder is from 40 to 60 centiliters. A bladder affected by chronic urinary retention can enlarge its capacity up to around 300 centiliters before it overflows and starts to leak causing wetting or even incontinence, which is the inability to control urination. The massive volume of urine may also put intense stress and pressure on the kidneys, leading to kidney damage. Incontinence and sexual dysfunction is also associated with this condition.
An enlarged prostate can be treated and even avoided simply by regular detoxification and making informed dietary and lifestyle changes.
What is Prostatitis?
Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate and sometimes the areas around the prostate, which is frequently painful.
Four types of prostatitis have been identified by scientists:
- Asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis
- Chronic prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome
- Acute bacterial prostatitis
- Chronic bacterial prostatitis
Why Are Black Men at Such High Risk?
Scientific research has found that this Black prostate cancer epidemic is partially due to unique genetic differences found in African Americans known as polymorphisms. One specific polymorphism in African American men causes their estrogen receptors to exacerbate the potency and devastating effects of estrogens, particularly in prostate cells. Research has found that estrogens in an androgenic environment, such as testosterone, are carcinogens for prostate cells, and can initiate and drive the progression of prostate cancer. It has also been discovered that unborn black males experience excessive exposure to maternal estrogens, as black women have higher circulating estrogen concentrations during pregnancy than women of other races. Another revelation is that black men – in fact, black people – produce and upregulate the metabolism of aromatase (CYP19), the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen, at a rate far more abundantly than any other race, which makes the effects of estrogen even more damaging for us.
Another racial difference is the significantly higher levels of serum prostate specific antigen (PSA) that is present in black men, in comparison to their white counterparts. Numerous studies have consistently found that among men undergoing radical prostatectomy, black men present with higher serum PSA values than white men.
PSA, is a protein produced by normal, as well as malignant, cells of the prostate gland. High PSA levels may be a sign of or a precursor to prostate cancer, prostatitis, or an enlarged prostate gland. Men over the age of 40 are, therefore encouraged to have regular PSA tests, in which blood is usually taken from the arm and lab tested for serum PSA levels, to determine their risk or presence of these conditions.
What Are Normal PSA Levels?
There is really no such thing as a universally “normal PSA” for any man at any particular age, but most men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer tend to have a higher than average level. So, urologists often rate levels in terms of safe to dangerous, as a guideline for their patients.
- Safe: 0 to 2.5 ng/mL
- Safe for most: 2.6 to 4 ng/mL.
- Suspicious: 4 to 10 ng/mL. There’s a 25% chance you have prostate cancer.
- Dangerous: 10 ng/mL and above. There’s a 50% chance you have prostate cancer.
What is Percent-free PSA?
PSA has two major forms within the blood. The first form is when PSA attaches to blood proteins. The second form moves around freely. The percent-free PSA test shows how much PSA moves freely compared to the total PSA level. The amount of free PSA is lower in men with prostate cancer. So, if for example, your PSA results are in the suspicious range (4 to 10), a low percent free PSA (say less than 10%) means there’s about a 50% chance you have prostate cancer. Most urologists will recommend biopsies for men whose percent-free PSA is 20 or less.