By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
The causes of prostate cancer are unclear but some of the risk factors for the condition that have been identified include:
Prostate cancer is considered to be the cancer of older men. The cancer is almost never seen in individuals below 40 to 50 years of age and nearly 60% of prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.
Ethnicity and race
For reasons that remain unclear, prostate cancer is more common in African-American and African-Jamaican men than in men from other racial groups. In addition, African-American men are at a greater risk of being diagnosed with more advanced disease and are more than twice as likely to die from the condition. By contrast, Asian-American and Hispanic men are less likely to develop prostate cancer than white people who are not of Hispanic race.
The risk for prostate cancer also seems to vary by country, with the highest incidence seen in North America, northwestern Europe, the Caribbean islands and Australia, while the condition is less common in Africa, Central and South America and Asia.
Lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption have been associated with prostate cancer. Obesity has also been linked to the development of the condition. Exposure to certain hazardous substances in the work environment may also raise the risk of prostate cancer. Evidence suggests that fire-fighters, for example, may get exposed to chemicals that increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have been shown to be associated with prostate cancer. In addition, men with first-degree male relatives who have had prostate cancer are at an increased risk for the condition.
Those with prostatitis (prostate inflammation) or sexually transmitted infections have a greater risk of developing prostate cancer.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jan 16, 2014