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Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

Knowing the risk factors for prostate cancer can help you determine if and when you want to begin prostate cancer screenings. The main risk factors include:

  • Age. As you get older, your risk of prostate cancer increases. After age 50, your chance of having prostate cancer increases substantially.
  • Race or ethnicity. For reasons that aren't well understood, African-American men have a higher risk of developing and dying of prostate cancer.
  • Family history. If a close family member — your father or brother — has prostate cancer, your risk of the disease is greater than that of the average American man.
  • Diet. A high-fat diet and obesity may increase your risk of prostate cancer. Researchers theorize that fat increases production of the hormone testosterone, which may promote the development of prostate cancer cells.
  • Surgery to become infertile (vasectomy). Although some studies suggest that men who've had a vasectomy are at increased risk for prostate cancer, no conclusive evidence to support such research has been found.
  • High levels of testosterone. Because testosterone naturally stimulates the growth of the prostate gland, men who have high levels of testosterone, such as those with hypogonadism or men who use testosterone therapy, are more likely to develop prostate cancer than are men who have lower levels of testosterone. Long-term testosterone treatment could cause prostate gland enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia). Also, doctors are concerned that testosterone therapy might fuel the growth of prostate cancer that is already present.