What are the Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer?

The stark reality for men is this: We’re all at risk for developing prostate cancer.  If you’re not already aware, please realize that one in every six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during the course of their lives.  Early detection and treatment is the key to survivability.

Read that again: One in every six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during the course of their lives! 80% of all men who achieve the great age of 80-years old have prostate cancer.

Since only men have a prostate gland, this is a disease that only affects males.  Obviously, the first main risk factor for prostate cancer is simply being born male.  However, it’s incredibly important to understand that there are many other risk factors associated with an increased risk for acquiring prostate cancer, including but not limited to: age, race, diet, genetics, social habits, weight, and family history.

graphic courtesy of www.drdelany.com

Age presents itself as the greatest risk factor for developing prostate cancer.  At the age of 50-years old, the risk for prostate cancer begins to climb substantially in white males without a family history of prostate cancer.  For black males, the age of 40-years old starts the increased risk.  Also, all men with a close relative who has suffered with prostate cancer have this steep increase in prostate cancer risk at a baseline age of 40-years old.  Approximately 65% of all prostate cancer diagnoses occur in men aged 65-years or older.

With regard to family history as a risk for prostate cancer, men with relatives who have had prostate cancer are considered to be a high risk group.

1 – If you have a father or brother with prostate cancer, your risk of acquiring the disease is more than doubled.

2 – If you have a brother with prostate cancer, your risk appears to be greater than if you only had a father who was similarly affected.

3 – If you have multiple members within your family with prostate cancer, your risk is even greater.

If you belong to this “family history” related risk group, your screening for prostate cancer must begin at the age of 40-years old.

Studies have shown that you may also have a genetic predisposition for prostate cancer.  Several inherited genes seem to increase your prostate cancer risk. Sadly, genetic testing to detect these genes is not currently available.  Experts reasonably estimate that this genetic predisposition for prostate cancer accounts for approximately 5% to 10% of all prostate cancer diagnoses.  Scientists are working hard to determine if the development of genetic testing will aid in prediction of prostate cancer risks in those men so affected.

Another risk factor for prostate cancer is a racial or ethnic predisposition.  In African-American men, the rate of prostate cancer occurrences is approximately 60% greater than their white-male counterparts.  Further, when prostate cancer is ultimately diagnosed in these men, it’s often at a more advanced stage.  Strangely, Japanese and African males who live within their native countries demonstrate lower occurrences of prostate cancer.  Their prostate cancer rates increase significantly when they come to the United States.

Theories imply a possible environmentally-related connection.  Those include lower sun exposure, high-fat diets, exposure to heavy metals (mercury, cadmium, etc.) or smoking tobacco.  As it stand there is no current clear understanding as to these racial differences and their impact on prostate cancer prevalence.

If you belong to the African-American male risk group, your screening for prostate cancer must begin at the age of 40-years old.

Other social or lifestyle choices may contribute to increased risk of developing prostate cancer, too.

1 – Your diet may be a factor.  Current available research seems to indicate that a high-fat diet increases prostate cancer risks.  Countries with greater consumption of meat and dairy products show higher rates of the disease.  Countries consuming more rice, vegetables, and soybean-based products have less prevalence of the disease.

2 – Cigarette and tobacco use may increase your likelihood for prostate cancer (and essentially all cancer types).

3 – Excessive use of alcohol may contribute to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Changing such habits can go a long way towards reducing your risks of acquiring prostate cancer.  Eliminating tobacco use and cutting back on alcohol use helps, too.  Making dietary changes to increase consumption of foods high in lycopene can aid in lowering your risk for prostate cancer.  Taking appropriate multi-vitamins is a plus.

Start exercising!  A sedentary lifestyle can make you more susceptible to many kinds of adverse health situations, yes, including prostate cancer.  You may be able to reduce your risk for prostate cancer by getting regular exercise and maintaining your optimum body weight.

Some common cancer “fast facts about prostate cancer” as offered by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:  Not counting some forms of skin cancer, prostate cancer in the United States is—

  • The most common cancer in men, no matter your race or ethnicity.
  • The second most common cause of death from cancer among white, African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic men.
  • The fourth most common cause of death from cancer among Asian/Pacific Islander men.
  • More common in African-American men compared to white men.
  • Less common in American Indian/Alaska Native and Asian/Pacific Islander men compared to white men.
  • More common in Hispanic men compared to non-Hispanic men.

In 2007 (the most recent year for which numbers are available)—

  • 223,307 men in the United States were diagnosed with prostate cancer.*
  • 29,093 men in the United States died from prostate cancer.*
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