The prostate is a small gland located underneath the bladder in men and is
part of the reproductive system. Some men develop prostate cancer, usually
later in life. If cancer develops on your prostate gland, it will likely grow
slowly. In rare cases, the cancer cells may be more aggressive and grow quickly
and spread to other areas of your body. The earlier your doctor finds and
treats the tumor, the higher the chances are of finding curative treatment.
According to the Urology
Care Foundation, prostate cancer is the second most common cause of all
cancer-related deaths among American men. About 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed
with the disease in their lifetime. Approximately 1 in 35 men will die from it.
Most of these deaths occur among older men.
Like all types of cancer, the exact cause of prostate cancer isn’t easy to
determine. In many cases, multiple factors may be involved. Ultimately,
mutations in your DNA, or genetic material, lead to the growth of cancerous
cells. These mutations cause cells in your prostate to start growing uncontrolled
and abnormally. Abnormal or cancerous cells continue to grow and divide until a
tumor develops. If you have an aggressive type of prostate cancer, the cells
may metastasize or leave the original tumor site and spread to other parts of your
Some risk factors may affect your chances of developing prostate cancer,
- family history
- geographical location
In some cases, the mutations that lead to prostate cancer are inherited. If
you have a family history of prostate cancer, you’re at increased risk of
developing the disease yourself because you may have inherited damaged DNA.
According to the American
Cancer Society, approximately 5-10 percent of prostate cancer cases are
caused by inherited mutations. It’s been linked to inherited mutations in
several different genes, including:
- RNASEL, formerly known as HPCI
- BRCA1 and BRCA2, which have also been linked to
breast and ovarian cancer in women
- MSH2, MLH1, and other DNA mismatch repair genes
One of the biggest risk factors for prostate cancer is age. This disease
rarely affects young men. The Prostate
Cancer Foundation reports that only 1 in 10,000 men under the age of 40 in
the United States will develop it. That number jumps to 1 in 38 for men between
the ages of 40 and 59. It leaps to one in 14 men between the ages of 60 and 69.
The majority of cases are diagnosed in men over 65.
Race and ethnicity
Although the reasons aren’t fully understood, race and ethnicity are other
risk factors for prostate cancer. According to the American
Cancer Society, Asian and Latino men have the lowest incidences of prostate
cancer. In contrast, African-American men are more likely to develop the
disease than men of other races and ethnicities. They’re also more likely to be
diagnosed at a later stage and have a poor outcome. They’re twice as likely to
die from prostate cancer than white men.
A diet that’s rich in red meat and high-fat dairy products may also be a
risk factor for prostate cancer. On the other hand, men who eat such diets also
tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. Experts don’t know if the high levels
of animal fat or the low levels of fruits and vegetables contribute more to
dietary risk factors.
Where you live can also impact your risk of developing prostate cancer. While
Asian men living in America have a lower incidence of the disease than those of
other races, Asian men living in Asia are even less likely to develop it. According
to the American
Cancer Society, prostate cancer is more common in North America, the Caribbean,
northwestern Europe, and Australia than it is in Asia, Africa, Central America,
and South America. Environmental and cultural factors may play a role.
Cancer Foundation notes that in the United States, men living north of 40
degrees latitude are at a higher risk of dying from prostate cancer than those
living farther south. This may be explained by a reduction in the levels of sunlight,
and therefore vitamin D, which men in northern climates receive.
Certain things that were once considered risk factors for prostate cancer
are now believed to have no connection to the disease. For example, your sexual
activity doesn’t appear to have any impact on your chances of developing
prostate cancer. Having a vasectomy also doesn’t appear to increase your risk.
There’s no known link between alcohol consumption and prostate cancer either.
What are the risk factors for aggressive prostate cancer?
Aggressive prostate cancers may be slightly different than slower growing
types of the disease. Certain risk factors have been linked to the development
of more aggressive types of the condition. For example, your risk of developing
aggressive prostate cancer may be higher if you:
- are obese
- have a sedentary lifestyle
- consume high levels of calcium
Although some cases of prostate cancer are aggressive, most are not. The
majority of men diagnosed with this disease can expect a good outlook and many
years of life ahead of them. The earlier your cancer is diagnosed the better your
outlook. Diagnosing and treating prostate cancer early can improve your chance
of finding curative treatment. Even men who are diagnosed in later stages can
benefit greatly from treatment. These benefits include reducing or eliminating
symptoms, slowing further growth of the cancer, and prolonging life by many