— by Cate Stevenson, BA
The prostate gland is a relatively small organ, particular to men. A healthy prostate is about the size of a walnut. It rests just below the bladder and surrounds the urethra. Your prostate can cause problems for you, especially later in life. The gland will naturally enlarge as you age. It can also become inflamed, causing a host of uncomfortable symptoms. And it is susceptible to developing cancerous tumors.
Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate mutate and begin to multiply out of control. The outside part of the prostate usually develops cancer first. These small clumps of cancer cells attach to an otherwise healthy prostate. When and if the cells begin to multiply, they can spread to the surrounding prostate tissue. Eventually a tumor may invade nearby organs, such as the seminal vesicles, bladder, or the rectum. Or tumor cells may travel into the lymphatic system and the bloodstream. Often, men with prostate cancer have no symptoms. Others experience similar symptoms to those found with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), including trouble with sexual function.
The American Cancer Society estimates that one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Approximately 1.8 million American men are prostate cancer survivors.
What causes prostate cancer? Many medical experts think that, like other cancers, prostate cancer could be the result of toxins accumulating in the prostate gland. And now a new study has taken this idea one step further and suggests that dry, cold weather contributes to higher rates of prostate cancer.
According to the researchers, this link between weather and prostate cancer incidence likely exists because cold weather slows the degradation of pollutants. And the more pollution in the air, the more chances there are for humans to ingest these pollutants in one way or another.
Since you can’t control the weather, you should take steps to prevent prostate cancer. Lycopene is one substance that could help protect your prostate from damage caused by toxins. Lycopene is a red pigment found in vegetables and fruit. It’s a powerful antioxidant that could neutralize free radicals. Free radicals cause a chain reaction to happen called “oxidation.” When sugars, lipids, enzymes and proteins like DNA are oxidized, they can’t function properly and could cause harm to your prostate. Oxidized DNA might provide the wrong genetic code to cells, leading to the growth of cancer. So, consuming lots of lycopene-rich foods could help protect you from prostate cancer.
One of the best sources of lycopene is found in processed tomato products such as spaghetti sauce. Other good sources of lycopene include watermelons, grapefruits, apricots, and red peppers.