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Can stress cause enlarge prostate?

The prostate is a gland found only in men. It is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The prostate surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder out through the penis. As men age, the prostate gland tends to grow larger, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). An enlarged prostate can cause urinary symptoms such as:

  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • Trouble starting a urine stream
  • A weak or interrupted urine stream
  • Dribbling at the end of urination
  • Returning to urinate again minutes after finishing

These enlarged prostate symptoms can greatly affect a man’s quality of life. Researchers are still trying to understand exactly what causes the prostate to enlarge as men get older. Some factors that may influence BPH development include:

  • Hormone changes associated with aging
  • Cellular changes within the prostate tissue
  • Inflammation of the prostate

Recently, there has been interest in the potential role of chronic stress in the development of BPH. Let’s take a closer look at the current evidence on whether stress can influence prostate growth and urinary symptoms.

The Link Between Stress and Prostate Biology

To understand if stress could be linked to prostate enlargement, we first need to understand how stress affects the body on a biological level. When we encounter stress, our bodies activate the sympathetic nervous system and release stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. These changes evolved to help us respond quickly to perceived threats.

Research shows that stress signals can impact cells throughout the body, including cells in the prostate tissue. Studies indicate that stress hormones may:

  • Influence cell growth and proliferation in the prostate
  • Affect male sex steroid hormone receptors in prostate cells
  • Promote inflammation within the prostate

These cellular changes provide a biological mechanism by which chronic stress could potentially contribute to prostate enlargement or worsen urinary symptoms.

Evidence From Human Studies

Some research studies have analyzed the relationship between psychological stress levels and prostate health in men:

  • A 2020 study followed nearly 6,000 men for 14 years. It found that those with higher perceived stress levels had a greater incidence of LUTS (lower urinary tract symptoms), which includes BPH symptoms.
  • In a 2019 study, men with moderate to severe LUTS were surveyed about stressful life events in the past 5 years. More stressors were associated with more severe urinary symptoms.
  • A 2018 study of over 2,000 men found that those with more extensive exposure to stressful working conditions had an elevated risk of requiring BPH surgery later in life.

These types of observational studies cannot prove cause and effect. But they do suggest an association between higher stress levels and worsened urinary symptoms that may be related to BPH progression.

Evidence From Animal Studies

Animal studies allow researchers to better evaluate potential causal relationships between stress and prostate biology:

  • Studies in mice have found that exposure to repeated stress can enlarge the prostate and thicken prostate tissues.
  • Stressed rodents have shown increased prostate inflammation and higher DHT levels (a hormone linked to BPH).
  • Blocking stress pathways in animal models reduced the cellular changes and prostate growth associated with stress.

These controlled studies provide evidence that stress may directly influence the rodent prostate. More research is still needed to confirm if this occurs similarly in humans.

Potential Ways Stress Impacts the Prostate

Based on the research to date, experts have proposed potential ways chronic stress could contribute to prostate enlargement or worsened urinary symptoms:

  • Cellular changes – Stress hormones may cause changes in prostate cells, leading to unchecked growth and proliferation.
  • Hormonal effects – Stress could impact testosterone conversion or receptor binding in the prostate tissue.
  • Increased inflammation – Stress signals may trigger inflammation in the prostate, contributing to BPH progression.
  • Health behavior changes – High stress could also indirectly affect the prostate by increasing unhealthy behaviors like poor diet, lack of exercise, or more alcohol use.

Managing Stress for Prostate Health

Since high stress levels may exacerbate urinary symptoms and potentially contribute to prostate enlargement, steps to manage stress could be beneficial for some men’s prostate health. Some options to consider include:

  • Relaxation practices like meditation, yoga, deep breathing
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Making time for hobbies and social connection
  • Learning coping strategies with a therapist
  • Medications or supplements that reduce anxiety

Adopting a healthy lifestyle and finding effective stress management techniques may help prevent or slow prostate growth. However, more research is still needed on whether reducing stress can directly improve prostate health over the long term.

The Bottom Line

Here are some key points about what is currently known regarding stress and prostate enlargement:

  • Studies show links between higher stress levels and worse urinary symptoms that could be related to BPH.
  • Animal research indicates stress can directly induce cellular changes and growth in the prostate.
  • Possible mechanisms include hormone effects, inflammation, and unhealthy behaviors.
  • Managing stress is healthy regardless, and may help prevent exacerbating urinary symptoms.
  • More human studies are needed to confirm whether lowering stress slows BPH progression.

While an enlarged prostate is normal as men age, maintaining low stress levels may help reduce urinary or prostate symptoms. Men should also see a doctor to get evaluated for BPH risk and discuss all treatment options. Research into stress and prostate health is still an emerging area – but managing stress is always a key component of overall wellness for men as they get older.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can anxiety cause prostate problems?

Some research indicates that chronic anxiety could contribute to prostate enlargement and worsen urinary symptoms. Anxiety involves sustained activation of the body’s stress response system. This can lead to cellular changes, hormone effects, inflammation, and unhealthy behaviors – all of which may impact prostate health over time. Managing anxiety with professional help and lifestyle changes may aid prostate health.

Does enlarged prostate mean cancer?

An enlarged prostate does not necessarily mean cancer. Most prostate enlargement is due to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous increase in prostate size related to aging and hormone changes. However, in some cases, prostate cancer can also enlarge the prostate. It’s important to see a doctor and get regular prostate cancer screening to evaluate what’s causing prostate enlargement.

What is the main cause of enlarged prostate?

The exact causes of benign prostatic hyperplasia are not known, but likely involve age-related hormone changes, inflammation, and cellular changes in the prostate tissue. Some emerging research suggests psychological stress could contribute to these changes, but more studies are needed. Other proposed BPH risk factors include genetics, excess body weight, lack of exercise, and diabetes.

Can statins cause prostate problems?

There is some evidence that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may contribute to worsening urinary symptoms and prostate enlargement in men with untreated BPH. Statins appear safe for prostate health when used together with medications to shrink the prostate. However, men on statins should let their doctor know if they experience any worsening prostate symptoms.

What foods are good for shrinking the prostate?

Some foods that may help shrink an enlarged prostate include:

  • Tomatoes – contain lycopene, an antioxidant that may protect prostate cells
  • Nuts – provide healthy fats and phytosterols that inhibit prostate growth
  • Green tea – may regulate prostate cell metabolism
  • Broccoli – contains sulforaphane, an anti-inflammatory compound
  • Soy – rich in isoflavones that mimic estrogen’s effects

A diet focused on plant-based foods, whole grains, vegetables, and healthy fats may help prevent prostate inflammation and growth. But more clinical studies are needed on specific foods for BPH.


In summary, emerging research suggests psychological stress may contribute to prostate enlargement and worsen urinary symptoms in aging men. Studies demonstrate links between stress and prostate changes in both humans and animals. The mechanism may involve increased inflammation, hormone effects, and unhealthy behaviors. While more research is warranted, managing stress through relaxation, lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication could support prostate health. However, an enlarged prostate should also be evaluated medically to identify any underlying cause.