Definition: Prostate, Bladder & Kidney Cancers
Urologic cancer is a term used to describe cancers of the prostate, bladder, and kidneys. The term also describes other cancers that are not detailed here, but can be accessed through the useful links provided on this site. These cancers include penile cancer, testicular cancer, transitional cell cancer, urethral cancer, Wilms’ tumor, and other childhood tumors.
To read more about a specific type of urologic cancer, click on the specific link below.
The prostate gland is about the size of a walnut and surrounds the neck of a man’s bladder and urethra—the tube that carries urine from the bladder. The gland’s primary function is to produce a fluid that helps carry sperm. It is partly muscular and partly glandular, with ducts opening into a portion of the urethra. The gland is made up of three lobes—a center lobe with one lobe on each side.
Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate begin to grow and divide out of control and form a tumor or tumors. A tumor can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (not cancerous). If a malignant tumor is not caught early, the cancer can spread to nearby tissues or other parts of the body.
Excluding skin cancers, prostate cancer (which is usually very slow growing) is the most common cancer among men in the United States. One man in six will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, but only one man in 32 will die of this disease.
According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer rates have been declining since 1994, while incidence rates have been rising since 1995, with a 3 percent per year increase in white men and a 2.3 percent per year increase in black men. Clarification of the risks and benefits of prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening, including potential impact on mortality, awaits the conclusion of two randomized clinical trials now in progress.
If diagnosed early, most prostate cancers can be successfully treated. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 85 percent of all prostate cancers are discovered while they are either localized (confined to the prostate) or regional (near the prostate). The five-year survival rate for men diagnosed with prostate tumors discovered at these stages is 100 percent. And, in the past 20 years, the five-year survival rate for all stages combined has increased from 67 percent to 97 percent.
While the causes of prostate cancer are not fully understood, researchers have found certain risk factors associated with prostate cancer. A risk factor is anything that may increase a person’s chance of developing a disease. While all men are generally at risk for prostate cancer, specific factors that increase the likelihood that certain men will develop the disease, include:
- Men 50 or older are at increased risk
- Black men are more likely than white men to develop prostate cancer
- A family history of prostate cancer
- A high-fat diet
These factors do not necessarily cause prostate cancer; however, they increase a person’s risk for developing the disease. Changing risk factors that can be controlled, such as diet, may help lower a man’s risk for prostate cancer.
In addition, because early detection greatly increases the probability of successful treatment, the American Cancer Society recommends men over age 50 be checked annually for the disease, Men at high risk, including blacks and men with a close relative diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65, should begin testing at age 40.
Some interesting notes about diet and prostate cancer:
- Studies suggest that men who eat a high-fat diet may have a greater chance of developing prostate cancer
- Dietary fiber intake may decrease the progression of prostate cancer
- Soy has been found to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer
- Obesity has been associated with some common cancers, including prostate cancer
- Family history of prostate cancer—Having a father or brother with prostate cancer doubles a man’s risk for the disease
- Genetic factors—The presence of certain genes that are inherited from parent to child
The bladder is a triangle-shaped, hollow organ located in the lower abdomen. It is held in place by ligaments that are attached to other organs and the pelvic bones. The bladder’s walls relax and expand to store urine, and contract and flatten to empty urine through the urethra.
Bladder cancer occurs when there are abnormal, cancerous cells growing in the bladder. The American Cancer Society estimates 70,000 new cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Bladder cancer affects men two to three times more often than women, and it occurs in whites twice as often as in blacks. Most bladder cancer occurs after age 55, but it can occur at younger ages.
There are several types of bladder cancer. Transitional cell carcinoma, which accounts for 90 percent of all bladder cancers, begins in the cells that line the bladder.
While the exact causes of bladder cancer are not known, there are well-established risk factors for developing the disease. A risk factor is anything that may increase a person’s chance of developing a disease. Risk factors for bladder cancer include the following:
- Working in an environment that exposes a person to industrial chemicals
- Age 40 or older
- Whites are at higher risk for bladder cancer
- Chronic bladder infections or bladder stones
- Having an infection caused by parasites found in tropical regions outside of the United States
Kidney cancer begins in the kidneys, which are two large, bean-shaped organs—one located to the left and the other to the right of the backbone. Renal is the Latin word for kidney, and kidney cancer may also be referred to as renal cancer.
The most common type of kidney cancer is called renal cell cancer. The information contained in this site refers to renal cell cancer.
The exact cause of renal cell cancer is unknown. However, there are certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of renal cell cancer. A risk factor is anything that may increase a person’s chance of developing a disease.
These risk factors, include:
- Age 50 to 70
- A family history of kidney cancer
- Tuberous sclerosis, a genetic disorder that causes benign tumors to form in many different organs
- Certain hereditary conditions such as Von Hippel-Lindau
- syndrome or hereditary papillary renal cell carcinoma
- A high-fat diet
- Long-term dialysis, which may lead to kidney cysts and may cause renal cell cancer