Al Roker reveals prostate cancer diagnosis: What to know about one of the most common types of cancer in men

Al Roker revealed Friday that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, saying on NBC’s “Today” show that it was discovered following a routine checkup in September. 

“It’s a good news-bad news kind of thing,” the weatherman said. “Good news is we caught it early. [The] not great news is that it’s a little aggressive, so I’m going to be taking some time off to take care of this.”

Al Roker ( Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that one in nine men will be diagnosed with it during their lifetime. 

Here’s what to know about prostate cancer following the news of Roker’s diagnosis. 

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What is prostate cancer and what causes it? 

Prostate cancer is a cancer of the prostate, what the Mayo Clinic describes as “a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.” 

Though it’s not entirely clear what causes prostate cancer, this type of cancer can form when cells in the prostate become abnormal, per the clinic. Not unlike other cancer types, mutations within the DNA of these abnormal cells cause them to grow and divide more quickly than normal, healthy cells. 

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“The abnormal cells continue living when other cells would die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor that can grow to invade nearby tissue. Some abnormal cells can also break off and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body,” according to the Mayo Clinic. 

What are the signs of prostate cancer? 

Prostate cancer usually grows slowly, so some men might not have any symptoms prior to their diagnosis. However, for some, prostate cancer can cause trouble urinating, blood in semen, discomfort in the pelvic area and erectile dysfunction, among other signs. 

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What are the risk factors? 

The risk of prostate cancer typically increases with a man’s age. Family history is also a factor, and chances can go up with obesity. Also, as Roker noted, Black men are more at risk for prostate cancer, although the reason for this is not clear. It’s also more likely to be “aggressive or advanced,” according to the Mayo Clinic. 

The American Cancer Society in its report entitled “Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2019-2021” said prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Black men. 

How is prostate cancer treated? 

In some cases, namely in those of low-risk prostate cancer, treatment right away may not be needed. In fact, “some men may never need treatment. Instead, doctors sometimes recommend active surveillance,” per the Mayo Clinic. 

For more aggressive cases, surgery to remove the prostate may be required. Other treatment options include radiation therapy or hormone therapy. Freezing prostate tissue — a process known as cryosurgery or cryoablation — may also be recommended, as well as chemotherapy or biological therapy, according to the clinic. 

Can prostate cancer be prevented? 

In general, living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent prostate cancer in men. Eating a healthy diet “full of fruits and vegetables” as well as choosing healthy foods over supplements, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight can all help to reduce the risk of a prostate cancer diagnosis, the Mayo Clinic says. 

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