A risk factor is something that increases your chances of developing cancer.

It is possible to develop prostate cancer with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing prostate cancer. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your health care provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for prostate cancer include the following:


In the United States, prostate cancer is found mainly in men over age 55.

The average age of a man being diagnosed with prostate cancer is 70 years. In men between ages 80 and 90, a microscopic examination of his prostate tissue would be 70% to 90% likely to show evidence of prostate cancer. However, only a minority of these cancers will cause symptoms or problems, or even be detected, during a man’s lifetime.

Race and Ethnicity

Compared to white men in the United States, African Americans have higher rates of developing prostate cancer. Hispanic-American men and Native-American men have lower rates of developing prostate cancer.

Inadequate Nutrition

Good nutrition is essential for health and well being. Some studies have found an association between diets high in animal fat and an increased risk of prostate cancer; other studies have not revealed this association.

Lack of Exercise

Living a sedentary lifestyle may put you at greater risk for prostate cancer. Some studies have suggested that exercising regularly may reduce your risk of prostate cancer.

Genetic Factors

Having a father or brother with prostate cancer increases your risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Men whose mothers have had breast or ovarian cancer may also have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.


There is some debate about whether a vasectomy increases your risk for developing prostate cancer. The only studies that have shown an increased risk from a vasectomy have been criticized because of some flaws in the experimental design. Those criticizing the studies feel that men who had undergone vasectomy are perhaps more likely to have prostate cancer only because they see a doctor more often. Other well-conducted studies do not show any relation between a vasectomy and prostate cancer.


Smokers have a higher risk of prostate cancer. Furthermore, smokers who are diagnosed with prostate cancer have a higher rate of complications and a greater chance of dying of their disease.

Moderate to Heavy Alcohol Use

Moderate to heavy alcohol drinkers are also at higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

Occupational Factors

Although studies are not completely in agreement, some evidence suggests that men who are exposed to certain chemicals in their workplace have higher rates of prostate cancer. These chemicals include cadmium, dimethylformamide, and acryl nitrite. Some studies also show that farmers and other agricultural workers have higher prostate cancer rates.