Men Today Men Today Men Today

Exploring the risk factors for prostate cancer

In the United States, one in six men can expect to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, while there is a one in seven chance that a Canadian man will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during his lifetime.

Those elevated incidence rates could be a byproduct of an aging population, as age is a significant risk factor for prostate cancer. According the Prostate Cancer Foundation, one in 10,000 men under age 40 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. That figure skyrockets to one in 38 for men between the ages of 40 to 59, and one in 15 for men in their 60s.

Though age is perhaps the most significant risk factor, it's not the only thing that increases a man's risk for prostate cancer. In fact, there are a host of factors in addition to age that increase a man's risk for prostate cancer, which the Canadian Cancer Society says will claim the lives of more than 4,000 Canadian men this year.

One such risk factor is where a man lives. Men who live in rural China, for instance, have a relatively low risk of developing prostate cancer during their lifetime. That risk is only 2 percent if a man stays in rural China his entire life. But that risk increases significantly if a Chinese man moves to the West, where a man in the United States has a 17 percent chance of developing prostate cancer.

And not only does which country a man lives in play a role, but also the location of his home within that country's borders can elevate a man's risk for developing prostate cancer. Men who live in cities north of 40 degrees latitude (north of Philadelphia, PA, Columbus, OH, and Provo, UT) have the highest risk of dying from prostate cancer, and researchers feel this is because men who live in such cities get less sunlight during the winter months and therefore less vitamin D.

Race is another risk factor for prostate cancer. Asian men have the lowest risk of developing prostate cancer, while African-American men are 60 percent more likely to develop the disease than Caucasian men. The PCF notes that African-American men are also 2.5 times more likely to die from the disease, which highlights the importance that African-American men must place on screenings.

Family history also plays a role in a man's risk for developing prostate cancer. Men whose fathers or brothers have had prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease. Their risk increases even more if their fathers or brothers were diagnosed with the cancer before reaching the age of 55 or if they had three or more family members who were diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Research into prostate cancer is ongoing and continues to unearth new information regarding this potentially deadly disease. The PCF notes, for instance, that the risk factors for aggressive version of this type of cancer can differ from the risk factors for slow-growing cancers. As a result, risk factors that were once not linked to prostate cancer are now being linked to aggressive forms of the disease. Smoking, for example, might be a risk factor for aggressive prostate cancer, as is a diet void of vegetables. Neither factor, however, is thought to increase a man's risk of slow-growing prostate cancer. Additional risk factors for aggressive prostate cancer include height (tall men might have an elevated risk) and living a sedentary lifestyle.

Many men are aware of the importance of prostate cancer screenings. However, few might know that certain factors significantly increase their risk for being diagnosed with this potentially deadly disease. More information about prostate cancer is available at