Although the causes for prostate cancer are not clearly understood yet, several risk factors have been identified. While risk factors are used as a tool for identifying individuals at an increased risk of developing cancer, it is not a clear indication that cancer will actually develop. Many people with one or more risk factors for cancer never develop cancer. Conversely, there are many individuals who have very few or no identifiable risk factors who still develop cancer. The following are a list of risk factors that have been linked to prostate cancer.
As men grow older, their risk of developing prostate cancer increases. Prostate cancer most commonly occurs in men over the age of 65 (about 2/3 of prostate cancer in men occur at this age). It is very rare for men under the age of 40 to develop prostate cancer. The risk for developing prostate cancer increases significantly for men after they reach the age of 50.
African-American men are at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer in comparison to men of other ethnic groups. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, African-American men are more likely to have a more advanced or aggressive form of prostate cancer. Because African-American men tend to have the highest incidence of prostate cancer as well as a more aggressive form, they are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as men of other ethnic groups. This may also be due to the fact that by the time African-American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, the condition is already in the more advanced stages.
[Related – Prostate Cancer Screening Guidelines]
Men of certain nationalities are more likely to develop prostate cancer. Nationalities with an increased risk of prostate cancer include men from:
- Northwest Europe
- North America
- Caribbean Islands
Nationalities with the lowest risk of developing prostate cancer include men from:
- South America
- Central America
It is not yet clear why nationality plays a role in the development of prostate cancer. More thorough screening in developed countries may be responsible for a portion of the difference, although other lifestyle factors such as diet and activity level are likely to play a key role as well.
Prostate cancer appears to run in families. This finding suggests that for certain individuals who are diagnosed with prostate cancer, there may be an inherited factor. A man who has either a father or a brother who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer is twice as likely to develop the cancer himself. For men who have multiple family members with prostate cancer, the risk of developing the condition is significantly increased. This is especially true if those affected were diagnosed at a younger than average age.
Several inherited genes have been identified that appear to raise the risk of developing prostate cancer. There is no genetic testing available at this time to detect these gene changes. Genetics only accounts for a relatively small number of cases.
Although obesity is not currently a risk factor for developing prostate cancer, it does appear to have an effect on the success of treatment. Men who are obese are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer when it is in more advanced stages, making it more difficult to treat. Obese men are at an increased risk of developing a more aggressive form of prostate cancer, for reasons that are not yet clear.
More research needs to be done on the role that diet plays in the development of prostate cancer. Currently, the correlation between the two is not clearly understood, however, several risk factors relating to diet have been identified. There is a slightly higher risk of developing prostate cancer for men who consume red meat and high-fat dairy products. Many of these men also consume fewer servings of fruits and vegetables, which may also increase their risk.
[Related – 9 Ways To Prevent Prostate Cancer]
Several studies have been conducted to try to determine if sexually transmitted diseases increase the risk of developing prostate cancer. It is possible that an STD can lead to inflammation of the prostate. Studies are currently inconclusive, and further research needs to be conducted.
Earlier studies found that men who undergo a vasectomy, especially those who have the surgical procedure before they reach the age of 35, may be at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Many of the more recent studies did not find any correlation between vasectomy and increased prostate cancer risk, and further research is needed.
If you have one or more risk factors, it does not mean that you will definitely develop prostate cancer. Conversely, it is possible to develop prostate cancer even when no risk factors are present. If you have one or more risk factors or if you suspect that you are at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer, contact your health care provider to discuss screenings and other preventative measures.