Approximately one out of every nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes, making it the second most common type of cancer in American men after skin cancer.
Those statistics, provided by the American Cancer Society, point to the importance of knowing what the risk factors are for prostate cancer—and what you might be able to do to modify those risks.
First, let’s take a look at what causes this type of cancer. Inherited gene mutations cause about 5 to 10 percent of all prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Other gene mutations are acquired over the course of a person’s lifetime and are not passed on to children.
While there is much that science has learned about prostate cancer risk and the symptoms you should never ignore, there is also much that is less clear and requires more research. We’ll take a look at both what we already know—and what we’re still learning.
Clear Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
How Old You Are. It’s rare to develop prostate cancer before age 40, but after age 55 the risk rises rapidly.
Where You Live. Prostate cancer is more common in North America, northwestern Europe and also Australia. It’s less common in Africa, Asia and South America. It’s not entirely clear why that’s true, but researchers generally believe it’s a combination of both better screening in developed countries and a difference in diet.
What Race You Are. Here’s where things get a little complicated. Although prostate cancer is less common in Africa, African-American men are more likely to get prostate cancer than white men. They are also more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer than white men. This is thought to be at least partially due to a difference in access to healthcare and health insurance.
Your Family History. Having a brother or father with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing it himself. But even other types of cancer in your family history may increase your risk, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer and pancreatic cancer.
Less Clear Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
What You Eat. Men who eat a diet high in red meat and high-fat dairy appear to have a slightly higher chance of developing prostate cancer. But researchers believe that risk may not be explained as much by what they’re eating as it is by what they’re not eating—a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
Your Weight. While being obese doesn’t seem to affect your chance of actually getting prostate cancer, some research has shown that it can affect your chance of survival once diagnosed. It’s important to note that not all studies have discovered this correlation.
If You Smoke. Just like being overweight, smoking does not appear to affect your chances of getting prostate cancer, but it may be a risk factor for developing aggressive prostate cancer.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors and Myths
Over the years, the finger has been pointed at various suspected causes of prostate cancer. The Prostate Cancer Foundation says the following have no effect at all on a man's risk of developing prostate cancer.
• High levels of sexual activity
• Having had a vasectomy
• Alcohol consumption
Cancer is never fun to talk about, but the important thing to remember is that screening and early detection can save lives. While there are some risk factors you can’t control, like family history, you can control whether or not you get checked for prostate cancer and how early you treat it. Contact us today to schedule your screening, which will give you the peace of mind of knowing that you’re doing everything you can to protect your health.