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Risk factors

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

Factors which determine the risk of developing prostatic carcinoma is not well documented. Three most important recognized risk factors for prostate cancer are

  • increasing age
    • is the strongest risk factor and the average age at diagnosis is 70-74 years while the average age at mortality is 80-84 years (2)
    • it is rare before 50 years but after which the incidence increases approximately linearly with age (3)
    • according to autopsy studies the proportion of men with prostate cancer in the 2nd decade was 8%, 3rd decade 28%, 4th decade 39%, 5th decade 53%, 6th decade 66%, 7th decade 80%
    • it is also associated with high grade cancers (2)

  • ethnical origin
    • men with black African or black Caribbean origin have a 3-fold higher risk of developing prostate cancer than white men
    • Asian and Oriental men have the lowest incidence (2)

  • family history
    • in men with a family history of prostate cancer, the risk increases with increasing numbers of first-degree relatives diagnosed with the disease
      • 2.5-fold - if the father had prostate cancer
      • 3.4-fold if the brother had prostate cancer
      • 3.5-fold if there are two first-degree relatives with a history of prostate cancer
      • 4.3-fold if the relative was under 60 years of age at diagnosis (2)
    • around 9% patients are thought to have true hereditary prostatic carcinoma (4)

Other risk factors include:

  • BRCA gene mutation - BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation carriers are at an increased risk of prostate cancer (5)

  • diet - although effects of diet on prostate cancer is still inconclusive, the following has been observed
    • foods containing lycopenes, selenium - may have a protective effect
    • in protein or calcium from dairy products - may increase the risk (2)

  • obesity - although obesity has been linked with prostate cancer in UK, it has not been proven as an important risk factor (2)

  • smoking - increases the risk of fatal prostate cancer (1)


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