Is Metastatic Prostate Cancer on the Rise in the USA? Examining The Causes

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Prostate cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer among men across the globe. But in recent years, men in the USA face another, advanced threat: metastatic prostate cancer. 

This condition occurs when the cancer cells break free from the confines of the prostate gland and begin to spread. These cells stealthily infiltrate into distant corners of the body—bones, lymph nodes, organs—where they set up new strongholds.

Imagine prostate cancer as a cunning infiltrator, initially confined to the prostate gland, but with aspirations far beyond. 

As it advances, cancerous cells embrace a clandestine journey, hitching rides to distant locales throughout the body. Like spies behind enemy lines, they settle in and commence their covert operations, establishing new bases of operation—secondary tumors. 

Metastatic prostate cancer, with its stealthy incursion and insidious growth, often eludes detection until it’s too late. 

Despite the US’ strides in cancer screening and treatment, concerns linger over the increasing incidence of metastatic cases. The COVID-19 lockdown has a role to play in it, too. In the first year of the pandemic, the early-stage diagnoses of cancer decreased by 20%. The initial lockdown led to the country’s regular monthly cancer diagnoses – which was 70,000 previously – being cut in half.

The disruption in cancer diagnosis and care, in the face of a more urgent threat, increased the likelihood of more patients developing deadly metastatic diseases. This was true for nearly all types of cancer, including prostate cancer.

This article will attempt to examine the surge of metastatic prostate cancer across the USA and narrow down its major contributing factors.

The Prevalence of Metastatic Prostate Cancer in the USA

Metastatic prostate cancer is a significant concern in the United States, impacting the lives of thousands of men each year. Despite advancements in screening and treatment, the prevalence of metastatic cases has raised questions about the effectiveness of current approaches to managing the disease.

Statistics paint a sobering picture of metastatic prostate cancer in the USA. A report submitted by the American Cancer Society reveals that the country will witness over 2 million new cancer cases this year. Prostate cancer tops the list of 10 cancer types most likely to develop in American men this year, with an estimate of 299,010 new cases. 

On the list of deaths caused by cancer types among men, prostate cancer comes second. The report estimates that the country is likely to lose over 35,000 lives of patients living with prostate cancer this year, which marks an 11% increase from 2023.

What’s even more shocking is that a significant portion of these cases is attributed to metastatic diseases. While localized prostate cancer remains the most common form diagnosed, the proportion of cases that progress to metastatic stages is concerning.

Geographical and demographic variations also play a role in the prevalence of metastatic prostate cancer. Research indicates that certain regions of the USA may have higher rates of advanced disease, possibly due to disparities in access to healthcare, screening practices, or environmental factors. 

Moreover, age, race, and socioeconomic status can influence the likelihood of developing metastatic prostate cancer, highlighting the importance of understanding these disparities in disease burden.

Factors Contributing to the Rise of Metastatic Prostate Cancer 

Metastatic prostate cancer doesn’t develop in isolation; rather, it’s influenced by a myriad of factors, ranging from environmental exposures to genetic predispositions. Below, we’ll get to the bottom of four major contributing factors to the rise of advanced prostate cancer:

Environmental Factors 

Environmental exposures play a vital role in the development and progression of prostate cancer, including its metastatic forms. A prime example is exposure to carcinogens in the workplace or living environment. 

Certain occupations, such as those involving exposure to heavy metals, pesticides, or industrial chemicals, have been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer progression. Take firefighters and military personnel, for instance.

Their work is associated with frequent exposure to aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). TorHoerman Law notes that the chemicals present in AFFF are tied to a number of serious health complications, including metastatic prostate cancer.

In the last few years, countless active and retired firefighters and military service members have suffered from prostate cancer due to exposure to AFFF. Many of them have come forward to file an AFFF lawsuit against its manufacturers for failing to warn them of its potential health risks. 

But while these lawsuits might end with them receiving hefty settlements, they certainly can’t reverse the effects of cancer in their bodies. This is why we must recognize these contributing factors earlier and protect ourselves from them.

Lifestyle Factors 

Lifestyle choices have a high influence on prostate cancer risk and progression, including its metastatic forms. 

Poor dietary habits, such as high intake of saturated fats and processed foods, have been linked to an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Conversely, diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of disease progression.

Physical inactivity and obesity are also significant risk factors for metastatic prostate cancer. Sedentary lifestyles contribute to weight gain and metabolic dysfunction, which can promote tumor growth and progression. 

On the other hand, regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer and improve treatment outcomes.

Aging Population 

Unfortunately for us all, age remains one of the most important risk factors for prostate cancer, including its metastatic forms. The US National Cancer Institute highlights 66 as the average age for the onset of cancer

Masashi Narita, a researcher at the University of Cambridge talks about p53 – a well-known molecular pathway that plays a key role in suppressing tumors in our body. Narita further explains how the efficiency of this pathway declines as we grow older, making us weaker against cancerous cells. 

Another complication in older patients is a higher number of additional health conditions. This, coupled with their lower tolerance to aggressive treatments, poses a serious challenge in treating their metastatic prostate cancer. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can a man live 10 years with prostate cancer?

Yes, they can. The 10-year relative survival rate of patients with prostate cancer is 98%. This means that any average patient with prostate cancer is 2% less likely to live than men without prostate cancer 10 years after its diagnosis.

Who is the longest survivor of advanced prostate cancer?

Drew Bouton is perhaps the longest survivor of advanced prostate cancer. Bouton was diagnosed with cancer in 2001, when he was 45, and was told he had only two years to live by his doctor. However, he didn’t lose hope, got married to the love of his life in 2004, and adopted a child three years later. Twenty-three years later today, Bouton is still alive and doing well as a 68-year-old. 

What causes death in advanced prostate cancer?

Advanced prostate cancer can end in death when the metastases spread and develop in the patient’s lymph nodes, bones, liver, lungs, or brain. Metastasis in the bones – a commonly occurring phenomenon – results in too much bone calcium being released into the bloodstream, causing hypercalcemia which leads to death.

To sum things up, we can all agree that metastatic prostate cancer stands as a formidable challenge to America’s healthcare today. Impacting the lives of thousands of Americans, the disease demands our immediate attention.

In the face of this escalating threat, early detection, access to quality healthcare, and ongoing research into more effective treatments are essential. Initiatives to raise awareness, improve screening practices, and support research efforts are vital components of our collective response to this pressing issue.

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