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Can prostate cancer increase the risk of other cancers?

Men who have survived prostate cancer, like all other cancer survivors, have a common concern – what is the possibility of facing cancer again, especially second cancer? This is an understandable and normal concern for any cancer survivor to question.  Second cancers are not uncommon. While the risk is small, one to three percent of survivors will develop second cancer different from the originally treated cancer, such as men who’ve had prostate cancer.

What’s the difference between a cancer recurrence and second cancer?

All cancer survivors are at risk of either a cancer recurrence or second cancer altogether. But what is the difference between these two terms? A cancer recurrence happens when first cancer comes back, such as in men diagnosed with prostate cancer, who has been declared in remission, but then in the future is diagnosed again with his prostate cancer reoccurring. This type of recurrence will be the same type of cancer any cancer survivor had before, even if it develops in a different area of the body.

A second cancer is not the same thing as a cancer recurrence. It’s new cancer that happens in someone who has had cancer but is a completely new and different type of cancer than the first one.

Possible second cancers prostate cancer survivors are at risk for

It is difficult for healthcare providers to know which cancer survivors will be at a higher risk for second cancer. Like any type of disease, there are always risk factors that may predispose a cancer survivor, such as men with prostate cancer, to place them in a higher risk for developing second cancer.  These risk factors include:

  • Inherited family risk in which one or several family members with cancer or a condition linked to cancer.
  • Any cancer survivor who has low levels of cancer cells left in their body even after treatment.
  • Certain cancer treatments, such as some types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy that may raise risk of second cancer.
  • Smoking
  • Environmental toxins
  • Being overweight
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Eating an unhealthy diet

Like all cancer survivors, men who’ve had prostate cancer could possibly be diagnosed with second cancer in the future. But, having had prostate cancer may raise their risk for certain types of cancer which may include the following:

  • Small intestine cancer
  • Soft tissue cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Thymus cancer
  • Melanoma of the skin

If a man with prostate cancer was treated with radiation, he may have an increased risk for rectal cancer and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Some men inherit genes, such as the BRCA2 mutation, that increase the risk of a more aggressive type of prostate cancer, often at an early age (under 50). These same genes could increase the risk of other cancers, too. Men who have been treated with radiation therapy for prostate cancer may have a small increased lifetime risk of developing rectal or bladder cancer. There is also a possible association of prostate cancer with colon cancer as it relates to what a man is eating. Men, who’ve had prostate cancer and are eating large quantities of red meat, may have a higher risk of colon cancer than men who consume little red meat.

What are the possible symptoms of second cancer?

Any cancer survivor, including men with prostate cancer, should pay close attention to any changes they notice and to bring these concerns to discuss with the primary care physician or urologist. Symptoms of second cancer may include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Having a sore throat that does not heal normally
  • Having a cough or hoarse voice that does not go away
  • Loss of appetite, difficulty digesting food, or difficulty swallowing
  • A lump, discharge, bleeding, or thickening in a certain spot
  • Bone aches or pains
  • Headaches and vision changes

Steps men can do to lower risk of a second cancer

The idea of developing a second cancer is unsettling and scary.  But, the good news is that men can take steps lowering their risk to stay as healthy as possible.

Here are important healthy steps prostate cancer survivors should do:

  • Reach a healthy body weight
  • Stay physically active limiting time spent sitting or lying down
  • Eat a healthy dietary pattern that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit or avoid red and processed meats, sugary drinks, and highly processed foods
  • Avoid alcohol as much as possible
  • Stay away from all tobacco products and tobacco smoke – smoking can increase the risk of bladder cancer as well as increased risk of other cancers such as lung cancer
Dr. David Samadi | Robotic Prostate Surgeon


ProstateCancer911.com is a resource created by Dr. David Samadi in order to raise awareness and get more men to receive prostate cancer treatment. The information is strictly general and you should always discuss with your doctor issues concerning your health.


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