Risk factors

taken from Small Gland, Big Problem 4th Edition
by Professor Roger Kirby, Health Press 2011

Overall, the lifetime risk of a man developing prostate cancer is around 10%. Your chance of getting prostate cancer depends on your personal risk factors. A risk factor is something that makes you more likely to develop a certain disease; for example, a high cholesterol level in the blood is a well-known risk factor for heart disease.

Risk factors for prostate cancer
  • Belonging to an older age group (usually 50+ years)
  • Having a close family member or members who have had prostate cancer
  • Having certain racial origins; for example, it is more common among men of Afro-Caribbean origin
  • Following certain eating patterns, such as a diet high in saturated fats and red meat
  • Low exposure to sunlight
prostate cancer graph
Older men are more at risk of developing prostate cancer than their younger counterparts

The strongest risk factor for prostate cancer is increasing age. The disease rarely occurs in men under 40, but commonly affects men beyond this age. The average loss of life expectancy is about 9 years – precious retirement years for which most men have been working and eagerly anticipating all their lives.

The next most important risk factor for prostate cancer after age is family history. Like breast cancer, prostate cancer runs in certain families and has been linked to a growing number of genes (more than 30 at the time of writing). A man whose father, brother, grandfather or uncle has had the disease has an increased risk of developing prostate cancer compared with one without an affected relative (and the risk is higher if multiple family members have been affected). This is particularly the case if the disease developed in the close relative when he was under 60.

Race is also a factor, with men of Afro-Caribbean extraction being at highest risk. These men seem to develop a more aggressive form of the disease and at a younger age than white men. Men of Far Eastern descent seem to be relatively less likely to be affected by the disease.