Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

All men are at risk for prostate cancer, but there are some factors that can increase your risk. Take our quiz to find your personal risk.

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Prostate cancer risk factors

The greatest risk factors for getting prostate cancer are age, family history, and race. Other risk factors include diet and exposure to chemicals.

If you don't have these risk factors, that doesn't mean you can't get prostate cancer. Remember, all men are at risk for prostate cancer.

Age

The risk of prostate cancer grows significantly as men age. About 60% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over 65.

Family History

Risk for prostate cancer can run in families. A man with at least one close relative who has had prostate cancer is twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease compared to the general population.

It is also important to know about a family history of breast, ovarian, or pancreatic cancers. Gene mutations found in those cancers have been identified in prostate cancer and linked to more aggressive disease.

It is estimated that inherited gene changes – those passed down by parents – account for approximately 10% of prostate cancers. Learn more about genes, genetic testing, and prostate cancer.

Race

Black and African American men are more likely to get prostate cancer than other men. In fact, Black men are 1.7 times more likely to get prostate cancer and 2.1 times more likely to die from the disease than white men. Black men in the U.S. and Caribbean have the highest prostate cancer incidence rates in the world.

Find more information about Black men and prostate cancer.

Read more about ZERO's efforts to achieve health equity in prostate cancer.

Veterans

Exposure to chemicals can add to prostate cancer risk and severity. Studies have shown Vietnam and Korean War Veterans with exposure to chemicals like Agent Orange have a higher occurrence of prostate cancer.

Veterans are about twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than men who have never served in the military. Prostate cancer is the most common malignancy in Veterans, diagnosed in approximately 11,000 men in the VA system each year.

Veterans with prostate cancer who were exposed to herbicides during active service may be eligible for disability compensation through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Learn more about support resources for Veterans, including VA benefits.

Firefighters & other chemical exposure

In addition to Veterans, other groups of people may have a heightened risk of developing prostate cancer due to chemical exposures. 

Some studies have shown firefighters have a 15%  greater risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer when compared to non-firefighters. This includes both volunteer and career firefighters. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies occupational exposure as a firefighter as “carcinogenic to humans” (Group 1). The IARC Group 1 classification is used when there is the strongest level of evidence that something can cause cancer. This rating includes all cancer types, with prostate cancer having limited evidence; more research is needed. 

Others at increased risk due to chemical exposure include:

  • Farmers and other men who work with large amounts of pesticides
  • Those who are frequently exposed to the metal cadmium like welders, battery manufacturers, and rubber workers

Diet & physical activity

Obesity may be associated with a slight increase in the risk of getting prostate cancer. Being obese and overweight may be related to prostate cancer aggressiveness and development according to a handful of studies. Obesity may increase the long-term disease progression for men with low-risk prostate cancer who are on active surveillance.

Regular physical activity has a positive impact on health and prostate cancer. Men who walk one to three hours each week have an 86% lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Further research has demonstrated three or more hours of vigorous exercise lowered the risk of prostate cancer death by 61%.

To learn more about actionable steps you can take related to health, wellness, and nutrition visit our Health & Wellness in Prostate Cancer webpage.

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