Is there a chance that we could induct the Great One — Abraham Lincoln himself  — into the “Brotherhood of the Beast”, posthumously? 

I guess it’s obvious that I have been trying to come up with something original to write about for Presidents Day.  But I found it pretty darn hard to answer my own question, considering that nothing has ever been written about Lincoln’s prostate, if a Google search is any indication.  Actually, the whole idea of Lincoln even having a prostate sounds funny to me.  It’s like dear husband said a few years ago, “Didn’t PC start showing up like in the last 20 years or so? Never heard of it before.”

Some historians speculate that President Lincoln did indeed have an undiagnosed illness toward the end of his life that was sapping his overall health.   One theory is that it was cancer.

Can we make a case that it might have been prostate cancer? I almost don’t know where to begin to speculate.   So let’s start with Lincoln’s diet.  The president was known to eat lots of fruits and nuts.  Nuts, especially walnuts, are supposed to be protective against PC.  But then, Mr. Lincoln, being a man of his time, also drank lots of milk, and some people think too much calcium is a risk factor.

Pres. Lincoln was a teetotaller, and you would think abstention would have had an overall protective effect on his health, cancer included.  But no,  just the other day I read that (moderate) alcohol consumption was shown not to be associated with an increased risk of PC.  But you can also make the case that the lack of alcohol in Mr. Lincoln’s diet (especially red wine) deprived him of  reservatrol, a neutriprotectant that is associated with lots of goodies, including a reduced incidence of prostate cancer.

Then there are the apostles of Vitamin D (self included), whose credo is that high levels of it in the bloodstream protect against prostate cancer.  Ideally that would involve a man working in the open air where he could get lots of sunlight.  You have to be outdoors to split rails (and Kentucky’s pretty sunny), so I would give the former president a check for that.  Also, Lincoln spent many hours on the road as a country lawyer exposed to the elements, including sunlight.  But what about Lincoln as president?  Mrs. Lincoln complained that her husband had no time to “take the fresh air”, and so she arranged for the two of them to go on a daily carriage ride.  (Whatever Mrs. Lincoln said, Mr. Lincoln did.)  The question is, I suppose, did they get out of the carriage or just look out the window?

Then there’s the touchy subject of sex, and the even touchier subject of masturbation.  Onea school of thought says that a high frequency of ejaculation by a man in his 20’s (and 30’s) might prevent prostate cancer later in life.  On the other hand, there are those that say celibacy is superior.  I am not going to speculate about the president’s sex life, except to say that he was married in his early 30’s.  Lincoln did have some tempestuous relationships with lady friends before that, but I doubt those turned physical.

I would say the strongest nugget in the “Lincoln Might Have Had Prostate Cancer” stew is President Lincoln’s extraordinary height.  At 6’4”, Lincoln stood eight inches taller than the average man of his time.  And researchers recently found a connection between height and prostate cancer. Only a few months ago, the British tabloids were blaring:

“Tall Men At Increased Risk Of Prostate Cancer Development And Progression.”

According to (Sep. 3, 2008), researchers who reviewed 58 studies and conducted their own found that “a man’s height is a modest marker for risk of prostate cancer development, but is more strongly linked to progression of the cancer”.

The specifics were reported in the September issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.  Twelve researchers at four universities in England studied more than 9,000 men with and without prostate cancer, and estimated that the risk of developing the disease “rises by about six percent for every 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) in height a man is over the shortest group of men in the study.  That means a man who is one foot taller than the shortest person in the study would have a 19 percent increased risk of developing the disease.”

Given President Lincoln’s significant altitude, we’d have to estimate his overall height-based vulnerability at around 40%.

Of course, all this is nonsense.  The only thing we know for sure that correlates with prostate cancer is testosterone, and we’re not even sure how that works. President Lincoln’s height is of no importance to us today.  But fortunately — his stature is.