Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among men, with roughly 1 in 8 receiving a diagnosis in their lifetime. Thankfully, it can be treated with a high likelihood of survival if diagnosed early, making it especially important for men to be aware of the risk factors. Knowing the factors that put you at a higher risk for developing prostate cancer helps you determine a plan for screening. 

Remember, it is possible to develop cancer while not having any risk factors at all, and having risk factors doesn't guarantee you will develop cancer.

Prostate Cancer Risk Factors Outside of Your Control

Researchers have found several factors that are uncontrollable and may increase a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer. 

  • Age - The chance of prostate cancer greatly increases in men, age 50 and older.
  • Race - Studies show that prostate cancer occurs more often in men of African descent than in men of other races. Prostate cancer also appears to be more aggressive or advanced in black men.
  • Geographic location - Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and on the Caribbean islands.  
  • Family history - The chance of getting prostate cancer is twice as likely if there has been a family member, such as a father or brother, diagnosed with the disease. The risk is even higher for men with several relatives who have been diagnosed. Also, if you have a family history of genetic mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, your risk of prostate cancer may be higher.

Lifestyle Factors That Increase Your Risk of Prostate Cancer

There are also some risk factors related to your lifestyle that may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer. These lifestyle habits may have a connection to men getting a more aggressive type of prostate cancer and include the following: 

  • Eating too much saturated fat in your diet (i.e. red meats and dairy) and not enough fruits and vegetables.
  • Being obese (very overweight).
  • Smoking tobacco. Although smoking has not been linked to getting prostate cancer, research has shown that it may contribute to the increased risk of dying from prostate cancer.   
The presence of one or more risk factors does not mean that you will definitely develop prostate cancer. It’s a good idea, however, to have regular prostate cancer screenings, especially when risk factors are present. Currently, prostate screening is recommended for men ages 55 to 69. Your doctor can help you determine when to begin prostate cancer screening, given your personal history and risk factors. While screening tests cannot prevent prostate cancer, achieving a better outcome after treatment is possible if detected early.

Causes of Prostate Cancer

The specific cause of prostate cancer is not yet known. But we know that mutations in a normal prostate cell’s DNA can cause the cell to grow uncontrollably. The cause of these mutations can be from an inherited gene in some cases. Studying both the DNA changes in prostate cells and the risk factors will continue to help cancer researchers learn more about how prostate cells become cancerous.

Lower Your Risk of Developing Prostate Cancer

There is no guaranteed way to prevent prostate cancer. There are, however, a few things you can do that may lower your risk of getting the disease, which include:

  • Eating healthier and being more active - Regular exercise and a healthy diet may decrease the risk of prostate cancer. To learn more, you can read through the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.
  • Taking medication - Certain drugs may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Some studies suggest that taking 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors (5-ARIs), including finasteride (Proscar) and dutasteride (Avodart), may reduce the overall risk of developing prostate cancer. These drugs are currently used to control the non-cancerous growth of the prostate. Talk with your doctor if you would like to learn more about these drugs.
  • Avoiding smoking - Smoking harms nearly every organ system in the body and diminishes a person’s overall health. Although quitting smoking may not prevent you from getting prostate cancer, it may increase your chances of surviving it if you are diagnosed. 

Learn how prostate cancer is detected.