Prostate Cancer 911

Causes and Risk factors

Although it’s the 2nd most prevalent type of cancer among men, scientists have yet to discover exactly what causes prostate cancer. The difficulty lies in the fact that there are certain risk factors that can cause cancerous cells to multiply in the prostate, but that does not mean that prostate cancer will occur in men that present one, a few or all factors. It is likely to never develop prostate cancer even if you identify yourself in some of the potential causes, as well as there is a chance of being diagnosed with the disease in spite of not presenting any risk factors at all.

As is the case with all types of cancers, prostate cancer is caused by DNA mutations of normal prostate cells. This means that prostate cells start dividing uncontrollably, which leads to the growth of a formation inside the prostate. Usually, the growth will stay within the prostate, but in the aggressive forms of the disease, the cells can spread to other parts of the body.

Scientists have yet to discover the exact causes that lead to prostate cancer, but there are, however, risk factors that have been associated with increased chances of its occurrence. Age, race and family history are the only ones considered to be nonmodifiable risk factors, which cannot be controlled. Diet and physical activity are the only ones men have control over, but it is still unclear if influencing them would lead to definitive prevention or slowing down the disease.

Men Running on Track | Causes and Risk Factors pf Prostate Cancer

What are the risk factors of prostate cancer?

  • Family history
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Diet
  • Agent Orange
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Obesity

1. Family History

Studies so far have shown that men who have a family history of prostate cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease in their lives. In fact, having a father or a brother that has gone through prostate cancer doubles the likelihood of the disease occuring. Even more, the more first grade relatives in your family are diagnosed with prostate cancer, the higher your chances are.

Men who are aware of prostate cancer cases in their families have to get regularly screened for the disease. The earlier it will be caught, the more chances for the disease to be cured without serious consequences on the quality of life after treatment.

2. Race, Ethnicity, Geography

There are clear variations in the occurence rates of prostate cancer among men of various races, ethnicities and locations. Scientists have reached the conclusion that men of African American descent are more prone to prostate cancer and twice as likely to die from the low-grade form, compared to caucasian males.

Doctors are not yet sure why these disparities in occurrence and outcomes happen. The causes might be related to socioeconomic differences and lack of opportunities in fighting the disease. As such, there is an increased rate of low-grade prostate cancer detection in more developed countries, due to more diagnosis options.

3. Age

Age is a definitive risk factor for prostate cancer, especially for men over the age of 70. That is not to say that younger men do not develop the disease, but the chances of it happening under the age of 45 are very slim.

In most cases, the disease develops slowly with no impact on the everyday life. Autopsy studies have shown that if men lived long enough, they would eventually develop prostate cancer. The conclusion was reached when doctors incidentally found asymptomatic prostate cancers during autopsies, that remained undetected for many years.

However, doctors recommend having a PSA test at the age of 40, as a baseline for future testing. It is recommended to get advice from your doctor regarding the frequency of PSA screening. Some urologists recommend doing it every year (based on your risk factors), or start doing it at the age of 70.

4. Diet

At the present time, there aren’t any definitive correlations between certain food categories and risk of prostate cancer. Preliminary studies have shown a correlation between the development of prostate cancer and excessive meat, especially processed, and high-fat dairy products consumption, such as milk, but there is more need for research before reaching a definitive conclusion. The same study indicates a potential protective link between consuming chicken, potatoes and rice and prostate cancer.

Having a diet that consists of high saturated fats or a low intake of tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables or soy products could be a negative factor that could cause the disease to develop, or that could increase chances of aggressive prostate cancer. These are not definitive conclusions and more research is underway.

5. Agent Orange

Many Vietnam veterans that were exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide during the war have developed different forms of cancer, especially prostate cancer. The substance contains dioxin, which is toxic for humans even in low concentrations. Scientists are sure about causation, but it is still unclear how the genetic modifications occur.

Often, patients exposed to Agent Orange can develop the aggressive form of the disease, especially if they may have been prone to it in the first place.

6. Lack of physical activity

Regular exercising is good for your overall health and well-being. Research has not proven a clear connection between physical activity and prostate cancer, but there are several benefits to leading an active lifestyle, such as a faster recovery after prostate surgery.

7. Obesity

At least for now, there is no proof that men who are overweight have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Some studies have linked obesity, however, to a higher chance of the disease evolving into a more aggressive form and, potentially, dying from it. These results are not yet definitive and will be further investigated.

There are several other leads that scientists are exploring as potential risk factors for prostate cancer: having had a history of sexually transmitted infections, vasectomies, inflammation of the prostate, such as prostatitis or BPH. The research that is available at the moment indicates that the only potential risk factors for men are age, race and family history.


  1. What causes prostate cancer, American Cancer Society, Web, 1 Aug 2019
  2. Prostate cancer: Risk factors, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Web, March 2018
  3. The impact of diet on prostate cancer, American News Today, Web, 23 Oct 201
  4. Epidemiology and Etiology of Prostate Cancer, UroToday, Web
Dr. David Samadi | Robotic Prostate Surgeon

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