Certain factors can raise your risk of getting prostate cancer. Some can’t be avoided, but lifestyle changes can lower your risk in other cases.
Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men. Death rates from this cancer have leveled off since 1995, but some risk factors can still raise your chances of getting the disease.
Certain risks, such as heredity, can’t be avoided. But you can cut your risk in other cases by making lifestyle changes.
These are risk factors for prostate cancer that you cannot change.
Age. Age is the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer. The disease is rare before age 40. But the chance of getting it rises rapidly after age 50. More than 70 percent of men diagnosed are older than 65.
Family history. If your father or brother has had prostate cancer, your chance of getting it more than doubles. The risk goes up even more if you’ve had several affected relatives, especially if any were diagnosed under age 60.
Race/ethnicity. African American men and Jamaican men of African descent have the highest prostate cancer incidence rates in the world. African-American men are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as white men. This may be due to finding the cancer when the disease is more advanced.
The disease occurs less often in Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino men than in whites.
Nationality. Prostate cancer is most common in:
- North America
- Northwestern Europe
- Caribbean islands
It is less common in:
- Central America
- South America
The reasons for these differences are not clear, though more screening in developed countries may help identify more cases. Lifestyle or diet differences may play a role, too. For instance, men of Asian descent living in the U.S. have a lower risk for the disease than white Americans, but their risk is higher than men of similar ethnic backgrounds living in Asia.
These are risk factors that you can control.
Diet. Men who eat lots of red meat or high-fat dairy products seem to have slightly higher chances of getting prostate cancer. But these men also tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. It is not known which of these factors raises the risk for prostate cancer.
Obesity. Being obese is not linked with a higher risk of getting prostate cancer. But some studies on obese men who get the disease have found other connections. For instance, obese men with prostate cancer may have a higher risk of having a more aggressive form of the disease. They may also be at greater risk of dying from their prostate cancer. More research is needed to find out the complex connection between prostate cancer and obesity. Much more is known about how obesity can lead to other conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Getting to and maintaining an ideal weight will contribute to your overall health even if there proves to be no direct connection with prostate cancer.
Exercise. Most studies have shown that exercise does not cut prostate cancer risk. But some find that high levels of physical activity, especially in older men, may lower the risk of an advanced form. Again, more research is needed before guidelines can be made about exercise and prostate cancer. Exercise, though, is known to lower the risk for other chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Ask your doctor how much exercise is right for you.