Free Radicals and Prostate Cancer

Unstable Molecules

Senior receiving an MRI Scan. Credit: skynesher / Getty Images

Free radicals are molecules that are very unstable and seek to bond to other molecules to increase their stability.

Free radicals are produced through a number of normal internal functions of the body as well as when the body is subjected to certain toxic environmental exposures.

When free radicals bond to molecules within the body's tissues, they can cause damage to cells or to DNA contained within the cells.

Free radicals are thought to play a part in the aging process, in some autoimmune diseases, and in the development of cancer, including prostate cancer. Antioxidants are thought to work, in part, by neutralizing free radicals.

What is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer develops in the prostate — a small gland that makes seminal fluid. It is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Prostate cancer usually grows over time and in the beginning usually stays within the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer that is more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Decreased force in the stream of urine
  • Blood in the semen
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Bone pain
  • Erectile dysfunction

Complications From Prostate Cancer

Complications of prostate cancer and its treatments include:

  • Cancer that spreads (metastasizes). Prostate cancer can spread to nearby organs, or through your bloodstream or lymphatic system to your bones or other organs. 
  • Incontinence. Both prostate cancer and its treatment can cause urinary incontinence. Treatment options include medications, catheters and surgery.
  • Erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction can be a result of prostate cancer or its treatment, including surgery, radiation or hormone treatments. 

Treatment of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer treatment options depend on several things, from how fast the cancer is growing to how much it has spread.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-powered energy to kill cancer cells. Side effects can include painful urination, frequent urination and urgent urination, as well as rectal symptoms, such as loose stools or pain when passing stools. Erectile dysfunction can also occur.

Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy prevents your body from producing the male hormone testosterone. Testosterone helps prostate cancer cells multiply. Cutting off the supply of hormones may cause cancer cells to die or to grow more slowly.

Side effects of hormone therapy may include erectile dysfunction, hot flashes, loss of bone mass, reduced sex drive and weight gain.

Surgery to remove the prostate

Surgery for prostate cancer involves removing the prostate gland (radical prostatectomy), some surrounding tissue and a few lymph nodes. 

Radical prostatectomy carries a risk of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.


Freezing prostate tissue

Cryosurgery or cryoablation involves freezing tissue to kill cancer cells.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill rapidly growing cells, including cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be administered intravenously in your arm, in pill form or both.

Chemotherapy may be a treatment option for men with prostate cancer that has spread to distant areas of their bodies. Chemotherapy may also be an option for cancers that don't respond to hormone therapy.

Biological therapy

Biological therapy, also called immunotherapy, uses your body's immune system to fight cancer cells. One type of biological therapy called sipuleucel-T (Provenge) has been developed to treat advanced, recurrent prostate cancer.


Mayo Clinic. Prostate Cancer.

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