Prostate health is an essential component of male wellness. Sadly, prostate issues are common with studies estimating that benign prostate disease is experienced by over 40 percent of American men by the age of 50 and over 70 percent by the age of 60. According to the CDC, prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer among men in the United States. To better combat prostate disease, we must become more familiar with the prostate and how to support it.
What is the Prostate?
The prostate is a male-specific chestnut-sized gland located under the bladder. Its principal function is the production of prostate fluid, which is a component of semen. However, the prostate muscles also assist in the ejaculatory process. Furthermore, the urethra runs through the prostate, meaning that this gland also has significant influence over urinary function. If the prostate malfunctions these and other processes may be interrupted. Two of the most common sources of dysfunction are prostate enlargement and prostate cancer.
Prostate Enlargement (BPH)
Prostate enlargement, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, is a common issue among men. Although rarely life-threatening, prostate enlargement comes with an array of painful and frustrating symptoms. Depending on the severity of prostate enlargement, men may experience the following issues at varying degrees of intensity:
- Weak or spluttering urine stream
- Sensation of not emptying bladder completely
- Difficulty beginning urination
- Sudden need to urinate, or sense of urgency regarding urination
- Frequent urination
- Sleep disruptions caused by the need to urinate
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Inability to ejaculate
BPH is typically treated through medications or therapies that help manage the values of specific hormones. Common approaches include testosterone supplementation and inhibiting the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, a hormone that may contribute to prostate enlargement if produced in excess.
Prostate cancer is a slow-growing condition. Studies show that, in men over the age of 65, prostate cancer nodules double every five years. This rate strongly contrasts with other types of cancer, such as breast cancer nodules that double in count every three to four months. Although prostate cancer is slow-moving in older populations, studies suggest that the rate of proliferation is accelerated in younger men.
Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of prostate cancer is that research suggests that most men who live past the age of 65 will develop it. Fortunately, if detected early, prostate cancer is treatable. The most common approaches to treating prostate cancer are aggressive removal or destruction of cancerous cells through radiation therapies or surgical intervention. However, other treatment options may be viable.
Some experts recommend treating prostate cancer with hormone reduction therapy wherein the values of specific hormones are decreased to such a degree that cancerous cells starve halting multiplication. However, when using this method there is potential for hormone imbalance resulting in widespread bodily dysfunction. The impact of such imbalance depends on the degree and duration of the treatment.
The Influence of Hormones on the Prostate
Proper prostate function relies heavily on various hormones produced by the body. Three of the most influential being testosterone, estradiol, and progesterone.
- Testosterone: The primary masculinizing hormone associated with many male characteristics. This hormone is critical for male health and function. Testosterone is primarily produced in the testes and partially by the adrenal glands.
- Estradiol: A form of estrogen needed for male hormone balance. Unlike estrogen, this hormone is produced in males through the conversion of testosterone. Studies have found that men with high estradiol levels and reduced testosterone levels are more likely to develop prostate cancer.
- Progesterone: A precursor to testosterone that helps maintain a proper balance of 5-alpha-reductase, which helps keep testosterone from being over converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). An overabundance of DHT is a significant risk factor of BPH.
The prostate houses the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone into DHT. This hormone can increase the production of prostate cells at a rate even greater than testosterone. This can cause increased prostate cell production and BPH. Some researchers have suggested that the greater prevalence of DHT in an individual may also increase their risk of developing prostate cancer. Therefore, regulating DHT levels by managing factors such as 5-alpha-reductase is important for maintaining healthy prostate function.
A Closer Look at Testosterone
Anabolic hormones such as testosterone help convert food into energy, strengthen bones and muscles, and are necessary for proper brain function. In males, testosterone also influences various important areas of wellness. Studies show that maintaining an appropriate amount of testosterone may provide the following benefits:
- Reducing LDL or “bad” cholesterol
- Increasing HDL or “good” cholesterol
- Reducing triglycerides and fibrinogen
- Increasing human growth hormone (HGH)
- Lowering blood pressure
- Normalizing irregular heart rhythms
- Relieving angina
- Improved insulin resistance
- Improved muscle and bone strength
- Decreasing body fat
- Improving oxygen uptake
- Reducing the risk of heart disease
Can Testosterone Cause Prostate Cancer?
There are many who incorrectly believe that testosterone promotes the occurrence of prostate cancer. Not only is testosterone a necessary component of men’s health, but experts state that it is very unlikely that testosterone contributes to prostate cancer. Testosterone levels are at their highest among male teens, where the occurrence of prostate cancer is nearly nonexistent. Conversely, the occurrence of prostate cancer increases with age when testosterone values are in decline. It is more likely that testosterone is a cancer deterrent in men rather than a promoter of prostate disease.
Support Your Prostate for Better Wellness
The well-being of a man’s prostate contributes to their overall health and quality of life. Therefore, keeping the prostate working at its best is important. Even though male hormone function and its impact on the prostate is less pronounced than other topics in our social discourse, it is imperative that men be educated on the subject. Without understanding the importance of male hormones and their influence on the prostate, there is little hope of resolving the increasing incidence of prostate disease.
At the Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to provide you with cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to find the answers you deserve and a treatment plan that is built to suit your specific condition. If you are a man experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, call us at 877-508-1177!
Want to learn more about male health and testosterone? Watch this webinar from Dr. Wayne Wightman.