Prevention & Early Detection

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Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

The biggest risk factor for developing prostate cancer is simply getting older. Although prostate cancer can occur at any age, it is most often found in men over the age of 50, and more than 75 percent of the men diagnosed with prostate cancer are older than 65. Other factors that affect prostate cancer risk include race, diet, hormone levels and family history.

African American men are twice as likely as Caucasian men to develop prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is less common among Asian men than in men of other races. The incidence of prostate cancer in Asian men in the U.S. remains about 40 to 50 percent lower than that of Caucasians.

Scientists believe a critical factor is diet. A diet high in fat may play a part in causing prostate cancer.

Research indicates that a family history of prostate cancer may increase your risk of developing the disease, particularly if you have a number of close relatives who were younger than 60 at the time they were diagnosed with prostate cancer. If his father or brother has had prostate cancer, a man’s risk is two- to three-fold greater than that of a man without a family history.

Scientists—including researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) parent organization—are working to find the genes responsible for this familial tendency toward prostate cancer.

Research suggests that the development of prostate cancer is linked to higher levels of certain hormones, such as testosterone.

A few studies have suggested that having a vasectomy might increase your prostate cancer risk, but most studies do not support this finding. Scientists have also studied whether benign prostatic hyperplasia, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, radiation exposure or a sexually transmitted virus might increase prostate cancer risk. At this time, there is little evidence that these factors contribute to an increased risk.

Reducing Risk

Nutritionists are studying how a low-fat diet that is high in nutrients such as soy protein and fiber may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. They are also studying whether men can reduce their risk of prostate cancer by taking certain dietary supplements.

A diet rich in vegetables—in particular cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collard, mustard greens, horseradish, Brussels sprouts, radishes, turnips, rutabaga and kohlrabi)—is associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.