Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

A number of factors may predispose a man towards prostate cancer. Although genetic or age-related risk factors are unalterable, making healthy lifestyle choices may lower the risk.

Age Factors

The connection between the disease and aging is well established: 75 percent of all prostate cancer is diagnosed after age 65. In comparison, only seven percent of cases are diagnosed before age sixty. In part, the higher rate of diagnosis in older men may be due to the slow-growing nature of prostate tumors. The tumors may well be present in younger men, but symptoms don’t become apparent until many years later.

Risks of Prostate Cancer by Age Chart

African American Ethnicity

An African American is twice as likely to develop the disease as a Caucasian. The exact reasons for this are unclear. What is known is that the African American community tends to be diagnosed earlier in life than other ethnic groups, and the disease is usually more advanced at the time of diagnosis.

Ethnicity or Nationality?

Globally, Americans and Western Europeans have the highest rates of prostate cancer. South American, Central American, African and Asian countries report much lower incidence rates. However, a comparison between Japanese and Japanese Americans in Hawaii revealed that the Japanese Americans had prostate cancer rates similar to other Americans. This suggested diet and lifestyle might have more of an impact than ethnicity.

Diet: Fats and Red Meat

Studies are indicating that a diet high in animal fats, red meat and dairy products may increase the risk. Conversely, eating a low fat diet, high in fruits and vegetables appears to lower the risk. Vitamin E and selenium supplements also may lower the risk of cancer.

The SELECT Clinical Trial

The ongoing Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) is an enormous clinical trial: over 32,000 participants are needed to study the prostate cancer-preventing properties of selenium and vitamin E.

Inactivity and Obesity

A sedentary lifestyle and excess weight may increase the risk of developing the disease. Eating right and exercising regularly improve overall health, and help combat many other diseases.

Family History

A family history increases your chance of developing prostate cancer by approximately ten percent. A number of genetic markers that may predispose men to tumor growth have been identified. Recent investigations have discovered an abnormality on a gene located on chromosome 1 (HPC1) that may increase risk levels. Only further studies will determine if this knowledge can help screen or prevent the disease.

Vasectomy Issues

For some time, it was believed that a vasectomy slightly increased the chance of developing prostate cancer. This belief has not held up under clinical examination. No evidence indicates that a vasectomy in any way increases the chance of developing cancer.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Benign prostatic hyperplasia is non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate. The presence of BPH does not indicate cancer-it’s an entirely different condition-nor is it a predisposing factor. However, tests may be required to differentiate between benign prostatic hyperplasia and tumor growth, as symptoms are often similar.


American Cancer Society. (2003). What are the risk factors for prostate cancer? Retrieved January 28, 2003, from _factors_for_prostate_cancer_36.asp?sitearea=cri.

Hayes, R. B. (nd). Prostate. Retrieved January 28, 2003, from