Prostate Cancer Overview

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Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention TOPICS

What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?

A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of getting a disease. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, such as smoking, can be changed. Others, like a person's age or family history, can't be changed.

But risk factors don't tell us everything. Many people with one or more risk factors never get cancer, while others with this disease may have had few or no known risk factors. While we do not yet know exactly what causes prostate cancer, we do know that certain risk factors are linked to the disease.

  • Age: Risk of prostate cancer goes up as men get older
  • Race: In the US, African-American men are more likely to get prostate cancer and die of it than in men of other races.
  • Nationality: Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean and less common in Asia, Africa, Central and South America.
  • Family history: Men with close family members (father or brother) who have had prostate cancer are more likely to get it themselves, especially if their relatives were young when they got the disease.
  • Genes: Scientists have found some inherited genes that seem to raise prostate cancer risk, but they account for only a small fraction of cases.
  • Diet: Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products seem to have a greater chance of getting prostate cancer.
  • Obesity: Some studies have found that obese (very overweight) men may be at greater risk for having more advanced prostate cancer and of dying from prostate cancer, but not all studies have found this.

Last Medical Review: 08/27/2013
Last Revised: 09/12/2014