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<p>Although men may not like to talk about it, prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death among men. September – National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month – is a good time to remind men to talk with their physicians about their risks and screening options.</p>

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center Advances Prostate Cancer Research with PROGRESS

Noah Hahn, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the Indiana University School of Medicine and a member of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, said one in six men will be affected by prostate cancer. This year, 186,000 men will be diagnosed with the disease and 28,000 will die from it.

Research into risk factors, early diagnosis and treatments for prostate cancer continue as progress in technology provides new tools for scientists. Dr. Hahn and his colleagues direct a study called PROGRESS (PROstate Cancer – Genetic Risk Evaluation of SNPs Study) to identify genetic and environmental risk factors which contribute to the development of prostate cancer and affect responses to therapy.

Dr. Hahn said new technology will allow IU School of Medicine researchers to examine the role of more than 500 genetic mutations and environmental toxic effects simultaneously. Previous studies have examined large sets of genes, but never in conjunction with data measuring how environmental factors impact prostate cancer risk.

Dr. Hahn and his colleagues hope to identify what he calls a “high-risk genetic signature” that raises an individual’s risk for aggressive prostate cancer. By identifying such a signature, improved screening and prevention programs can be developed and implemented for those men at greatest risk, he said.

According to Dr. Hahn, prostate cancer starts as a small nodule in the prostate – the small walnut-shaped gland in males located just beneath the neck of the bladder – and usually does not present any symptoms in its early stages.

Early symptoms of prostate cancer can include urinary problems, but those are usually caused by an enlarged prostate or BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia). BPH is not cancer.

BPH symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Trouble starting urine stream
  • Unable to empty bladder completely

Men should talk with their physician about these symptoms to rule out prostate cancer.

For most men, prostate cancer is first detected during a routine screening such as a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test or a digital rectal exam (DRE).

Current screening guidelines suggest that men should be counseled and offered a PSA blood test and DRE every year, beginning at age 50, according to the American Cancer Society.

Men at high risk should begin testing at age 45. They include African-American men and men who have a close relative (father, brother, or son) who had prostate cancer before age 65.

As with many cancers, treatment options for prostate cancer include surgery and radiation. Robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery offers patients a quick return to normal activity, while intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and proton beam therapy are the latest radiation treatments.

Men interested in participating in the PROGRESS study may get additional information by calling (317) 274-3655.