What Are the Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer?

As indicated by the rates of diagnosis, age is the biggest risk factor.

Other important factors include family history, genetic factors, race, and lifestyle and dietary habits.

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Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

As indicated by the rates of diagnosis, age is the biggest—but not the only—risk factor for prostate cancer. Other important factors include family history, genetic factors, race, and lifestyle and dietary habits.

Genes that increase risk for disease can run in families. Genetic factors contribute to about 40% of all prostate cancers, which makes prostate cancer the most “inheritable” of all cancers. Men who have a relative with prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease, while those with 2 or more relatives are nearly 4 times as likely to be diagnosed. The risk is even higher if the affected family members were diagnosed before age 65. Men may also be at increased risk of prostate cancer if they have a strong family history of other cancers, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, or pancreatic cancer. Because family members share many genes, there may be multiple genetic factors that contribute to the overall risk of prostate cancer in a family. However, there are also some individual genes that we now know increase the risk of prostate cancer, and men with these genes may need to undergo genetic counseling, be screened differently, or consider changes in treatment.

It is still a scientific mystery, but African American men are 76% more likely to develop prostate cancer compared with white men, and 2.2 times more likely to die from the disease.

Prostate cancer appears to develop about 3 years earlier among African American men, on average, than among white men. Whether this phenomenon is due to environmental factors—such as diet, stress, and exercise; socioeconomic factors—such as those related to access to healthcare; or genetic factors—such as genes that run in families, remains unclear. Improving understanding about the origins of risk will help inform better treatments and is an active area of research for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. In the meantime, it is important to keep in mind that not every African American man will get prostate cancer, and that all prostate cancer has a better chance of being managed effectively and cured if it is detected early.

Other risk factors for prostate cancer are social and environmental factors—particularly a high fat, high processed carbohydrate diet—and lifestyle. Men who are overweight or obese are at greater risk of ultimately developing an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Research has shown that in obese men, recovery from surgery tends to be longer and more difficult, and the risk of dying from prostate cancer can be higher.

To learn more, please visit the Prostate Cancer Foundation at PCF.org.

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