12 July 2014

Zimbabwe: Are You At Risk of Developing Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer is now the most common cancer among Zimbabwean men according to the Zimbabwe National Cancer Registry. The Cancer Association of Zimbabwe states that all men are at risk and it's often tricky to know if you have it or not as prostate cancer presents with no early signs or symptoms.

Prostate cancer is very uncommon in men under 45 but it is estimated to affect 80 percent of men who reach age 80. These are staggering statistics but prostate cancer is typically classified as a very slow growing type of cancer and many never know that they have the disease.

Men with a family history of prostate cancer are more likely to get the diagnosis but scientists do not fully know its cause. Experts have estimated that hereditary prostate cancer only accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all cases.

However, cancer researchers have found a strong link to lifestyle-related risk factors that affects your chances of getting it. These risk factors primarily include eating a healthy diet and engaging in adequate amounts of physical activity and exercise.

"Eating healthily and being physically active can help you maintain a healthy body weight and reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer. Strive to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible and cut back on fats and processed food items," says Mrs Junior Mavu, general manager of the Cancer Association of Zimbabwe.

A poor diet is frequently characterised by the consumption of high-energy foods that are rich in trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and highly processed animal proteins. Research has also highlighted the importance of eating sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables.

"The amount of fruits and vegetables that you need depends on one's age, sex, and physical activity level but a good goal to strive for is to have half of your plate filled with fruits and vegetables," Mrs Mavu adds.

Saturated and trans fats are commonly found in highly processed foods that are high in energy and low in essential nutrients such as deep-fried foods and baked goods. The widespread problem of high-fat street foods, trans fat deep-fried snacks, and sodas are so great that it can be found on almost every street corner.

"It's closely related to urbanisation and industrialisation. In the cities, there is an increasing lack of activity and cheap foods are more accessible and affordable," says Dr Timothy Armstrong from the WHO's Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion.

A high-energy diet combined with deficient exercise or physical activity can prove to be a deadly combination. Eating large amounts of unhealthy fats have been found to promote weight gain, raise testosterone, and alter the function of other critical hormones in the body.

Physical activity and exercise is needed for all - regardless of weight, health condition or age - to achieve optimal health and fight off prostate cancer. Strive to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week - the more the better.

The Cancer Association of Zimbabwe commemorates male cancers in July and they are having a men's breakfast on 25 July 2014.

For additional information and to reserve a spot, please email: info@cancer.co.zw, SMS: 078 2082 762, or call: 707444 / 705522/ 707673. The writer is a doctor and an international health advisor that works in collaboration with the World Health Organisation's goals of disease prevention and control. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.

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