Why Do Men Get Enlarged Prostates?

The prostate is located under the bladder and surrounds the urethra. It is the male reproductive gland responsible for producing the fluid that carries sperm during ejaculation.

Urinary dribbling, inability to completely empty bladder, and pain while urinating are considered lower urinary tract symptoms and are all side effects associated with enlarged prostates.[1]

Medical authorities explain causes of enlarged prostates are unknown. However, they do indicate a couple factors that possibly facilitate this occurrence, but these observations are merely preliminary.

What Is an Enlarged Prostate?


Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), the abnormal increase in prostate cells, is a noncancerous condition that may develop into an enlarged prostate. It is said only around half of men with BPH will go on to develop an enlarged prostate.[1]

As the prostate gland grows, it may encroach on neighboring organs, specifically the bladder and urethra. This interference squishes the urethra, causing it to narrow which results in the aforementioned side effects.

Although they may share similar symptoms, prostate cancer and prostate gland enlargement are considered entirely different.[2]

Potential Contributing Factors


There are several speculations surrounding possible causes of an enlarged prostate.

Age

As men age, their cells become less responsive to signaling. In this case, an imbalance in prostate cell proliferation and apoptosis (programmed cell death) occurs. As a result, prostate cells grow and form excess tissue and increase prostate muscle tone, which may block the urinary tract.[3]

Hormones

Hormonal balance in older men is also a possible contributor to developing an enlarged prostate.

One theory states androgens (male hormones) play a role in enlarged prostates, especially a testosterone-converted dihydrotestosterone (DHT). During puberty, it is DHT that causes the prostate to grow quickly to a healthy size. Thus, medical authorities suspect DHT may be a culprit.[4]

Estrogen levels are also thought to be associated with enlarged prostates. The New York Times explains, “As men age, testosterone levels drop, and the proportion of estrogen increases, possibly triggering prostate growth.”[4]

In a supporting Japanese study, data reveals estrogen “may play a pathophysiologic role in benign prostatic hyperplasia.”[5]

High-Fat Diet

Another developing theory links high-fat diets to benign prostate growth. This is evidenced in a study published in the journal The Prostate.

Dr. Gupta and his team studied high-fat diets in mice as they analyzed prostate weight and growth in mice for 12 weeks.[6] Quoted on ScienceDaily.com, research led Dr. Gupta to say the following, “This study strengthens the link between a high-fat diet –typical of “Western style” high fat diet –as a potential cause of prostatic diseases including BPG and prostate cancer.”[7]

Obesity

Lowering chances of BPH may help men reduce occurrence of an enlarged prostate.

One comprehensive literature review, published in the Journal of Urology, shows obesity significantly increases the risk of BPH. In relation to this theory, researchers also believe physical activity decreases the risk of BPH occurrence.

References

[1] “Guide: Background.” The New York Times.

[2] “Prostate gland enlargement.

[3] Glienke W. “Introduction of apoptosis in human prostate stromal cells by 4-hydroxytamoxifen an alternative therapy for benign prostate hyperplasia.” World J Urol. 2004 Dec;22(6):452-6. Epub 2004 Sep 23.

[4] “Health Guide: Enlarged Prostate.” The New York Times.

[5] Matsuda T, Abe H, Suda K. “[Relation between benign prostatic hyperplasia and obesity and estrogen].” Rinsho Byori. 2004 Apr;52(4):291-4.

[6] Eugene V. Vykhovanets, Eswar Shankar, Olena V. Vykhovanets, Sanjeev Shukla, Sanjay Gupta. “High-fat diet increases NF-κB signaling in the prostate of reporter mice.” The Prostate, 2010; DOI:

[7] “Mechanism for Link Between High Fat Diet and Risk of Prostate Cancer and Disorders Unveiled” 16 July 2010.

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