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Genetics of Prostate Cancer (PDQ®): Genetics - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Introduction


These differences may be due to the interplay of genetic, environmental, and social influences (such as access to health care), which may affect the development and progression of the disease.[5] Differences in screening practices have also had a substantial influence on prostate cancer incidence, by permitting prostate cancer to be diagnosed in some patients before symptoms develop or before abnormalities on physical examination are detectable. An analysis of population-based data from Sweden suggested that a diagnosis of prostate cancer in one brother leads to an early diagnosis in a second brother using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening.[6] This may account for an increase in prostate cancer diagnosed in younger men that was evident in nationwide incidence data. A genetic contribution to prostate cancer risk has been documented, but knowledge of the molecular genetics of prostate cancer is still limited. Malignant transformation of prostate epithelial cells and progression of prostate carcinoma are likely to result from a complex series of initiation and promotional events under both genetic and environmental influences.[7]

Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

The three most important recognized risk factors for prostate cancer in the United States are:

  • Age.
  • Race.
  • Family history of prostate cancer.


Age is an important risk factor for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is rarely seen in men younger than 40 years; the incidence rises rapidly with each decade thereafter. For example, the probability of being diagnosed with prostate cancer is 1 in 298 for men 49 years or younger, 1 in 43 for men aged 50 through 59 years, 1 in 16 for men aged 60 through 69 years, and 1 in 9 for men aged 70 years and older, with an overall lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer of 1 in 7.[1]


The risk of developing and dying from prostate cancer is dramatically higher among blacks, is of intermediate levels among whites, and is lowest among native Japanese.[8,9] Conflicting data have been published regarding the etiology of these outcomes, but some evidence is available that access to health care may play a role in disease outcomes.[10]

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