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The actor and father of five Brian Austin Green opens up about his journey living with ulcerative colitis and why he’s encouraging men to embrace preventive measures to reduce their prostate cancer risk. Image on behalf of Depend
  • Prostate cancer affects 1 in 8 men during their lifetime.
  • Actor Brian Austin Green is speaking out about his risk for prostate cancer.
  • Green teamed up with Depend and its Stand Strong For Men’s Health initiative to help raise awareness and fund research for prostate cancer.

Actor Brian Austin Green first caught the eye of America in his role as David Silver on the 1990s television series ‘Beverly Hills, 90210,’ which followed a group of friends as they transitioned from high school to college.

Today, Green continues to act, but as he transitions into his 50s, he wants to show America, particularly men, the importance of prioritizing health.

When Green was in his early 30s, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC), an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. Symptoms include bloating, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal and rectum pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, and more.

“I tend to only have flare-ups every two or three years, which is amazing…but they’re severe flare-ups when I get them…This last flare-up I had I was bedridden for six weeks. I lost about 20 pounds,” Green told Healthline.

Living with UC pushed him to be more aware of his health in all areas.

“Up until the point when I tested positive for ulcerative colitis…I took my health completely for granted and felt like I was indestructible. I didn’t have screenings done for anything. I wasn’t going in doing prostate check-ups or exams; I was completely guilty of that as many men are,” he said.

When Green learned that having UC puts him at increased risk for prostate cancer, it reinforced the importance of staying on top of his health.

“Research shows that men with inflammatory bowel disease, particularly ulcerative colitis, may be at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer, with some studies showing an increased risk of up to 58%,” Dr. Brandon Mahal, vice chair of research and assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Miami, told Healthline.

More research is needed to fully understand the connection, but one proposed explanation for the increased risk is that the chronic inflammation caused by UC contributes to the development of prostate cancer.

“IBD is also known to have a genetic component, meaning that it can run in families. Some of the genes linked to IBD are also associated with prostate cancer, which may explain some of the association between the two conditions,” Mahal said.

As one of the most common cancers among men, about 1 man in 8 will be diagnosed with the disease during his lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Prostate cancer rarely occurs in men under 40 and about 60% of cases are diagnosed in men 65 or older. The disease is also more common in non-Hispanic Black men, reports the ACS.

Early detection of prostate cancer is crucial, said Dr. Ardeshir Rastinehad, vice chair of urology at Lenox Hill Hospital. He said screening and detection are easier and less intrusive than they once were.

“We no longer biopsy patients without a genuine reason,” Rastinehad told Healthline.

Screening is typically done with a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) biomarker test that requires a simple blood draw. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), PSA screening can help detect the disease early when treatment may be more effective.

“Screening is a choice, but given the new ways to assess a man’s risk for prostate cancer using prostate MRI and biomarkers, we can better identify men at risk of the disease and help them avoid a delay in diagnosis,” said Rastinehad.

The fact that prostate cancer doesn’t always trigger noticeable symptoms until the cancer has significantly progressed is more reason for early detection, said Mahal. While all men are at risk for prostate cancer, he said they should talk with their doctor about personal risk factors to determine when they should screen.

The PCF recommends that men who are at increased risk for developing prostate cancer—men who are Black or who have a family history of prostate cancer or other cancers—should start talking with their doctors at age 40. For everyone else, Mahal said start the conversation at age 45.

“Taking risk factors into account such as family history, race, age and preexisting conditions (such as IBD) are also important factors to keep in mind when determining at what age to begin screening,” he said.

Due to Green’s risk, his doctor recommended he screen with a PSA test. He said the test was simple and took five minutes at his doctor’s office.

“So there used to be this stigma, and I think a lot of it had to do with the rectal exam that had to be done with prostate cancer before, that men were sort of felt like, ‘Oh, I feel fine. I don’t think that I need that,’” said Green. “[But] if you’re not going in and getting tested ever, complications could arise from it and you could have been doing treatments and things 10 years ago that could have completely changed the course of having something like [prostate cancer].”

Being a father to five kids also motivated him to get tested. Not only to stay healthy for his children but to be a role model for them to feel empowered to prioritize their health.

“I think the best way of doing that is honestly, it’s leading by example,” said Green. “If I go and I get tested and I do an annual screening, then to be able to talk to my kids about it, I can say, ‘Hey, I just did it. It’s so simple. I do it every single year. Come with me let’s do it together.’”

For Green, sharing his story isn’t all about himself and his family, but more about helping others.

To ignite conversations about prostate cancer, its side effects, and treatment, and to encourage men to embrace preventive measures, Green teamed up with PCF and Depend for the Stand Strong For Men’s Health initiative. For every purchase of Depend Real Fit or Shields made from September through November, Depend will donate a portion of the proceeds to the PCF, to help fund research on prevention, detection, and treatment of prostate cancer.

Main side effects from prostate cancer treatment and during recovery include urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, and less often infertility, said Mahal.

While it’s not commonly known, he noted that battling incontinence and other urinary issues while undergoing treatment is a normal side effect because surgery and radiation can affect the pelvic floor and bladder function.

“Helping men understand what is happening to their bodies and providing ways to manage these symptoms is a very important part of prostate cancer treatment and recovery,” said Mahal.

Green is proud to take part in spreading education and understanding. Through the initiative, he hopes to inspire men to become aware of prostate cancer and be more in tune with their risks. He’s also happy to help the campaign foster more funding for prostate research.

“Prostate cancer has for the most part been a bit underfunded up until this point because it isn’t as regularly tested as breast cancer or a lot of other things,” he said. “If I can use the platform that I have at all to get people to take prostate cancer as seriously as other forms of cancer, that’s fantastic.”