Prostate cancer: Is it hereditary?

My father died of prostate cancer and I want to do everything possible to avoid getting it. He developed his first symptoms in his late fifties, but it took a couple of years before cancer was diagnosed. What is the likelihood that I will get it? What can I do to prevent it? Is it linked to diet?

Dr Fred Kavalier answers your health question:

Prostate cancer is now the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the UK. According to Cancer Research UK, it accounts for one in five of all new male cancers diagnosed. Although many young and middle-aged men worry about prostate cancer, it is largely a disease that affects older men. About two-thirds of cases occur in men of 70 and over, and below the age of 50 it is rare. About one in 13 men will develop prostate cancer at some time in their lives, but only about one in 25 will die from it. It is often said that you are much more likely to die with prostate cancer than from it. Although no prostate cancer genes have yet been discovered, the disease does sometimes seem to run in families. For someone like you, who has a close relative (a father, brother or son) who has had prostate cancer, the risk of developing it is increased two- or threefold compared with someone who has no relatives with prostate cancer. Men who have more than one close relative with prostate cancer are at even higher risk. What can you do to prevent it? There are a few dietary measures that seem to help. Taking more selenium in the diet may reduce your risk. Pulses, such as lentils, and tomatoes (which contain a chemical called lycopene) also offer a protective effect. For almost all cancers, a diet high in fruit and vegetables is beneficial. There is a continuing debate about whether it is worthwhile having the prostate specific antigen (PSA)-screening blood test. One of the problems with prostate cancer is that it is sometimes so mild as to make the treatment worse than the disease. If you want to read more about the pros and cons of PSA screening, consult: www.cancerbacup.org.uk.

Please mail your questions for Dr Fred to health@independent.co.uk. He regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.

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