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Risk factors for prostate cancer

Each year, more than 164,000 American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. No one knows if or when the disease will develop, but understanding the risk factors for prostate cancer may help you take preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of getting the disease. Screenings may help detect prostate cancer early, before symptoms occur.

What causes prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer forms when the DNA in cells in the prostate develop mutations that may disable their ability to control cell growth and division. In many cases, these mutated cells die or are attacked by the immune system. But some mutated cells may escape the immune system and grow out of control, forming a prostate tumor.

While the exact cause of prostate cancer may not be known, the risk of developing the disease increases with age. Also, men with a family history of prostate cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease.

Some common risk factors for prostate cancer include:


Race: Studies show that African American men are approximately 70 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer in their lifetime than Caucasian or Hispanic men.

Age: The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age. While only one in 10,000 men under age 40 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, one in 15 men in their 60s will be diagnosed with the disease.


Family history: Men with an immediate blood relative, such as a father or brother, who has or had prostate cancer, are twice as likely to develop the disease. For men who have another family member diagnosed with the disease, the chances of developing prostate cancer increase.


Diet: A diet high in saturated fat, as well as obesity, increases the risk of prostate cancer.

High testosterone levels: Men who use testosterone therapy are more likely to develop prostate cancer, as an increase in testosterone stimulates the growth of the prostate gland.

Other conditions

Prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN): This condition may be associated with increased risk of prostate cancer. PIN is a condition in which prostate gland cells look abnormal when examined with a microscope. It is not necessarily linked with any symptoms. Nearly one half of men will be diagnosed with PIN before age 50.

Genome changes: Certain genes have been known to elevate prostate cancer risks, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

Next topic: What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

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