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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.

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: Prostate cancer risk 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.
  • Geography: Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean, and it is less common in Asia, Africa, and 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 it.
  • Gene changes: Some inherited genes 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.

Some other possible risk factors have been studied as well, but so far their link to prostate cancer is not as clear. Some examples include:

  • Smoking
  • Being a firefighter
  • Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate)
  • Certain sexually transmitted infections
  • Having a vasectomy

Last Medical Review: 01/09/2015
Last Revised: 02/09/2016