After The King's prostrate and cancer diagnoses, are Harry and William at more risk?
King Charles has two conditions affecting his prostate and bladder area. We know, for sure, one is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and the other, more seriously is likely to be bladder cancer - hopefully caught at an early stage.
In this scenario, urologists and oncologists like myself routinely ask whether the two conditions could be connected or whether other members of the family are more at risk. If so, they can be screened for early disease at a younger age or are advised to take preventative measures.
Many cancers, including bladder, have no apparent cause but there are some known associated risk factors such as smoking and working in the dye industry - both of which do not apply to The King. His BPH and this new cancer are completely independent conditions but there may be a causative link. Studies have previously shown that men with BPH have about a 20% increased risk of bladder cancer. The possible explanation for this association is that men with BPH often don't empty the bladder fully. This residual urine in the bladder increases the contact time cells lining the bladder are exposure to toxins excreted in the urine. Some of these toxins, ingested in the diet or absorbed through the lungs, can irritate the urothelial cells causing mutations in their DNA, eventually leading to cancer. Fortunately bladder cancers, are is not common.: only 3% of all cancers which equates to less than 10,000 new cases in the UK each year.
Sometimes bladder cancers can run in families but this is most often because family members share similar unhealthy lifestyle habits such as heavy smoking. As William and Harry do not smoke they are unlikely to be at a higher risk of bladder cancer. That said, William does perform a lot of public duties which require him to stand around for long periods of time so he is likely to be restricting his fluids, to avoid him having to rush to the loo. Studies have clearly shown that people who drink too little, producing more concentrated urine, have a higher risk of bladder cancer. The stronger, yellow, urine increases the exposure of the bladder lining cells to potentially harmful toxins. Hopefully, he will be advised to drink plenty between events.
There is, however, a tendency for BPH to run in families. If a man's father or brother has had BPH, he may be more likely to experience it himself. BPH is also incredibly common affecting fifty percent of men over the age of 50 and by the time they reach The King's age, 75 years, over 70% will have it.
The exact cause of BPH is not well understood. A big factor is the hormone imbalances which occurs with increasing age. There are several potentially modifiable lifestyle factors which are linked to a higher risk although most of these do not apply to The King who is known to be fit and has a good healthy diet.
These lifestyle factors include obesity, lack of physical activity, a diet high in meat and processed sugar.
Over time, these create a state of poor gut health and chronic Inflammation in the body including within the prostate gland. This excess inflammation encourages cells to grow too fast in the prostate causing hypertrophy and hyperplasia.
Living with chronic excess inflammation puts a strain on the immune system increasing the risk of infection, and cancer. Fortunately Mother Earth has gifted us some natural antidotes which help reduce chronic inflammation, improve our defence against DNA-damaging oxidative toxins. They are called phytochemicals and are found in fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. They also act as pre-biotics which encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Furthermore, fit people who eat a lot of phytochemical rich foods also have better testosterone levels and less hormonal imbalances as they get older both of which reduce the risk of BPH, and for that matter many other chronic degenerative diseases.
Both Harry and William are physically fit, have an excellent body shape, don't smoke and undoubtedly listen to sensible dietary advise so any extra risks from having a father with these conditions are likely to be negligible.