Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

Medically Reviewed by Nazia Q Bandukwala, DO on July 12, 2023
3 min read

All men are at risk of having prostate cancer. About one man in nine will be diagnosed with it during their lifetime, but only one in 39 will die of this disease. About 80% of men who reach age 80 have cancer cells in their prostate. Besides being male, there are other things that contribute to the risk.

The thing that raises your odds of having prostate cancer the most is age. If you’re white and have no family history, your odds go up sharply at age 50. If you’re Black or you have a close relative with prostate cancer, they jump up at age 40. About two-thirds of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men ages 65 and older. But the older you are, the less aggressive the disease is, especially after age 70.

Men whose relatives have had prostate cancer are considered to be at higher risk. Having a father or brother with the disease more than doubles your odds of having prostate cancer. Having a brother with prostate cancer appears to make it more likely than having an affected father does. Your chances go even higher when multiple family members are affected. Men with prostate cancer in their family should start getting screened at age 40.

Studies have identified several inherited genes that appear to raise the risk of prostate cancer. Experts estimate that the hereditary form of prostate cancer accounts for just 5% to 10% of all cases.

Prostate cancer happens about 60% more often in Black men than in white American men. And when it is diagnosed, the cancer is more likely to be advanced. But Japanese and African men living in their native countries have low rates of prostate cancer. Numbers for these groups rise sharply when the men immigrate to the U.S. Black men should begin prostate cancer tests at age 50.

Doctors don’t know why different races have different levels of prostate cancer, but they think things in the environment work together to make it more likely:

  • High-fat diets
  • Less time in the sun
  • Heavy metals like cadmium
  • Things that cause infection
  • Smoking.

Research also suggests high dietary fat may be linked to prostate cancer. Men in countries with a high-fat diet tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. The disease is much more common in countries where meat and dairy products make up a lot of the diet, compared to those where the basic diet consists of rice, soybean products, and vegetables.

Extra weight doesn’t seem to boost your risk of prostate cancer. But it could make you less likely to get a lower-grade type and more likely to get an aggressive form. Not all study results agree, but some research shows that obese men may have a greater chance of having more advanced prostate cancer and of dying from prostate cancer.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet to figure out how closely linked a lack of physical activity is to prostate cancer, but it has been shown to play a role in other types, like colon and endometrial cancers. But since a lack of physical activity often goes with obesity and metabolic syndrome, there may be a link between it and prostate cancer, too.

You might hear your doctor call these mutations. You’re born with them, so they fall in the category of risk factors you can’t control. They run in families, but they only affect a small number of people. They raise the odds of breast and ovarian cancers in women and prostate cancer in some men.

Lynch syndrome, or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), is also a gene change you get at birth. It can boost your odds of getting a number of cancers, including prostate cancer.