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Common Risk Factors for Developing Prostate Cancer

3 min read

By Rachel Despres

Medically Reviewed by Eric Leckie, PT

After breast and lung cancer, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in America. It occurs in the prostate, the small gland responsible for producing “the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm,” says the Mayo Clinic. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, approximately 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with the disease during their life.

But not all men have the same risk of developing prostate cancer. There are many different factors that can contribute to their likelihood of being diagnosed with the disease—including these six.


A man’s age is among the primary risk factors for developing prostate cancer. The disease is quite rare in those under age 40, with only 1 in 10,000 being diagnosed.

But after age 40 the Prostate Cancer Foundation says “the rate shoots up to 1 in 39 for ages 40 to 59, and 1 in 14 for ages 60 to 69,” with a whopping 60 percent of cases occurring in men over 65.


Although it is unclear why, prostate cancer is approximately 70-percent more likely to occur in African-American men than in those who are Caucasian or Hispanic.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology adds that African-American men are also “more likely to develop prostate cancer at an earlier age and to have aggressive tumors that grow quickly.” As a result, they are twice as likely to need surgical treatment compared to Caucasian men.

Family History

Prostate cancer may also run in a person’s family. Known as familial prostate cancer, the American Society of Clinical Oncology says that it occurs in about 20 percent of cases, and develops due to “a combination of shared genes and shared environmental or lifestyle factors.”

If a man’s father or brother has been affected by prostate cancer, the American Cancer Society says it “more than doubles a man’s risk of developing this disease.” If many relatives have developed the disease, the source adds that the risk is even higher, “particularly if their relatives were young when the cancer was found.”

Gene Changes

Although they may only account for a small number of cases, certain inherited gene mutations can increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. One type is a mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes (particularly the latter).

Lynch syndrome, which is caused by inherited gene changes, increases a man’s risk of developing many different cancers, including prostate. For men with these mutations, the American Society of Clinical Oncology suggests they should get screened for prostate cancer at an earlier age.

Chemical Exposures

Some studies have found that exposure to chemicals in certain lines of work may also increase the likelihood of developing prostate cancer. For example, due to the usage of pesticides, farmers may be more at risk, although the Canadian Cancer Society says research has yet to determine which chemicals in the pesticides may be related to prostate cancer.

The source adds that occupational exposure to cadmium—a metallic element used in smelting or battery manufacturing industries—and the chemicals involved in rubber manufacturing may also increase risk.


Although it is not exactly clear how diet contributes to prostate cancer risk, several different factors have been linked. According to Prostate Cancer Canada, “[m]en who eat a low-fibre, high-fat diet are more likely to develop prostate cancer.” The source adds that saturated fats are especially risky, as they may “increase testosterone production and promote the growth of prostate cancer cells.”

Some studies have also suggested that overconsumption of calcium, either through diet or supplements, may also increase a man’s risk. In addition to diet, the Canadian Cancer Society says that men who are overweight or obese “have a higher risk of being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer or prostate cancer that has already spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body.”

DPT, Doctor of Physiotherapy

Eric Leckie is a men's health Physiotherapist specializing in prostate cancer treatment. He completed his studies in Australia earning his Doctor of Physiotherapy from the University of Melbourne. He currently works in a private practice, in addition to owning his own Telehealth Physiotherapy clinic which focuses on treating men with prostate cancer.

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