Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

The cause of prostate cancer is unknown. However, certain risk factors (and protective) factors are recognised.

There are many factors that may affect your risk of developing prostate
cancer. Patients and their loved ones should discuss any decisions regarding
prostate cancer risks, screening, and treatment with their physician.



Increased Risk

Family History
  • One first-degree relative = 2-fold or greater risk[1]
  • One first-degree relative and one second-degree relative = 8.8 times greater
  • Family history of BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations carries greater risk for
    prostate cancer. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes associated with familial breast
    cancer that may be identified in high-risk individuals/families undergoing
    genetic testing.
  • Scandinavian  [4,5]
  • African American  [5,6]


Potentially Increase Risk

  • Circulating male hormone levels  [5,7,8]
  • Diet high in:
    • Fat   [9,10] (fatty meats, dairy food)*
    • Vitamin A from animal sources [11] (red meats, especially liver)* [12]


Decreased Risk

Race [5]
  • Asian


Potentially Decrease Risk

  • Diet high in:
    • Vitamin A from plant sources, beta carotene11 (orange, red or dark green
      leafy vegetables)*   [12]
    • Isoflavonoids  [9,13] (plant-based weak estrogens found in soy products)*
    • Lycopenes [14] (carotenoid antioxidant found in tomatoes)*
    • Selenium [15] (seafood, meats, grains)*
    •  vegetable and seed oils, whole grains, wheat germ, green leafy
      vegetables* [12]


No Definitive Correlation

  • Vasectomy
    • Men undergoing vasectomy demonstrate greater health-seeking behavior and are more likely to be screened for prostate cancer [17]
  • Occupation
    • Weak association with cadmium exposure (e.g., mining, newspaper printing)   [18]
  • Smoking5
* Foods cited are examples, not an all-inclusive list.





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  2. Struewing JP, Hartge P, Wacholder S, et al. The risk of cancer associated
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  3. Easton DP, Steele L, Fields P, et al. Cancer risks in two large breast
    cancer families linked to BRCA2 on Chromosome 13q12-13. Am J Hum Genet.
  4. Sigurdsson S, Thorlacius S, Tomasson J, et al. BRCA2 mutation in Icelandic
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  10. Gann PH, Hennekens CH, Sacks FM, Grodstein F, Giovannucci EL, Stampfer MJ.
    Prospective study of plasma fatty acids and risk of prostate cancer. J Natl
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    dietary factors and pathogenesis of prostate cancer. Int J Urol. 1998;5:195-213.
  14. Gann PH, Ma J, Giovannucci E, et al. Lower prostate cancer risk in men with
    elevated plasma lycopene levels: results of a prospective analysis. Cancer Res.
  15. Giovannucci E. Selenium and risk of prostate cancer. Lancet.
  16. The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group. The
    effect of vitamin E and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other
    cancers in male smokers. N Engl J Med. 1994;330:1029-1035.
  17. Sidney S, Quesenberry CP Jr, Dadler MC, Guess HA, Lydick EG, Cattolica EV.
    Vasectomy and the risk of prostate cancer in a cohort of multiphasic
    health-checkup examinees: second report. Cancer Causes Control. 1991;2:113-116.
  18. Elghany NA, Schumacher MC, Slattery ML, West DW, Lee JS. Occupation, cadmium
    exposure, and prostate cancer. Epidemiology. 1990;1:107-115.