It is usually not possible to know exactly why one man develops prostate cancer and another doesn’t. It could depend on a feature of a man’s habits, genetic makeup or personal history that increases the probability of the disease.
These features are what are referred to as risk factors — any attribute, characteristic or exposure of a man that increase the likelihood of him developing prostate cancer.
What is known is that risk factors matter in regards to prostate cancer. Research has shown that certain risk factors may increase a man’s chances of developing it, just like there are protective risk factors linked to lowering one’s risk of the disease.
Why risk factors matter
One way for a man to be prepared and fully understand the possibility of prostate cancer is to be familiar with risk factors associated with it. Keep in mind having a risk factor or even several does not mean that you will automatically get prostate cancer. There can be people who have no risk factors and still develop cancer.
But having the knowledge of what the risk factors for prostate cancer are can give men awareness of what they can and can’t control and from there make positive changes that could reduce the incidence of developing it.
Risk factors for prostate cancer
Here are 10 risk factors that might raise the possibility of a man getting prostate cancer:
This risk factor is the number one reason why a man may develop prostate cancer. Obviously a man cannot change his age, but just knowing that age is a risk factor can keep him cognizant of that fact and make sure he is having yearly checkups on his prostate gland.
Prostate cancer is rare in men younger than 40 but when a man turns age 50 his risk for it rapidly rises. In fact, six out of 10 cases of prostate cancer are found in men older than 65.
Men who are of African American descent and Caribbean men of African ancestry have higher rates of prostate cancer than men of other races. On top of this, a man who is African American has more than twice the risk of dying from prostate cancer than white men. The races/ethnicities in which prostate cancer occurs less frequently in are Asian-American and Hispanic men. It is not known what the reason is for these racial differences.
Another less understood discrepancy of where prostate cancer is more common has to do with where a man lives. Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and on Caribbean islands. It is diagnosed less commonly in Asia, Africa, Central American and South America.
One factor that is believed to possibly play a role in the discrepancy are lifestyle differences such as food choices or diet.
4. Family history
Prostate cancer does tend to run in families, suggesting that in some cases there may be an inherited or genetic factor. A man who had a first-degree relative such as his father or brother (it is even higher if a man had a brother with it) diagnosed with prostate cancer has a more than double risk of developing this disease.
Another factor that can place a man at a higher risk is if he has had several relatives with prostate cancer and particularly if these relatives were young at the time of diagnosis.
5. Gene changes
There has been research showing that men with inherited gene changes appear to have an increased risk of prostate cancer. For example, if there are inherited mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA1genes, which raise the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women, mutations in these genes (especially BRCA2) may also raise prostate cancer risk in some men.
A man who has Lynch syndrome, a condition caused by inherited gene changes, can increase the risk for a number of cancers including prostate cancer.
6. Food choices
There are some studies that have shown men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products appear to have a slightly higher risk of developing prostate cancer. However, these same men also tend to consume fewer fruits and vegetables.
Some studies have shown that men who consume a lot of calcium may increase their risk of prostate cancer. Again, most studies have not found a link with the levels of calcium found in the average diet — and calcium is known to have many important health benefits.
7. Excess weight gain
Studies have shown obese men do have a low risk of developing a low-grade (less dangerous) form of prostate cancer but a higher risk of getting a more aggressive prostate cancer.
8. Lack of exercise
There have been studies showing a relationship between exercise and a lowered risk of prostate cancer. Researchers have found that men who were moderately to highly active had a more than 50% reduction in their prostate cancer risk. Men who exercised in any amount had a 13% reduction in the risk of the aggressive form of the disease.
9. Chemical exposure
A few studies have suggested a possible link between exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical used widely in the Vietnam War and increased risk of prostate cancer.
Smoking is not good for anyone’s health and it has strong ties to many types of cancer, including prostate cancer. Recent studies have found a small connection between smoking and increasing the risk of prostate cancer. Any man who currently smokes and is worried about his risk of developing this disease would be wise to quit smoking.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical contributor for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, SamadiMD.com, davidsamadiwiki, davidsamadibio and Facebook.
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