Scientists don't know exactly what causes prostate cancer. They cannot explain why one man gets prostate cancer and another does not. However, they have been able to identify some risk factors that are associated with the disease. A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of getting a disease.
Age is the most important risk factor for prostate cancer. The disease is extremely rare in men under age 40, but the risk increases greatly with age. More than 60 percent of cases are diagnosed in men over age 65. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 65.
Race is another major risk factor. In the United States, this disease is much more common in African American men than in any other group of men. It is least common in Asian and American Indian men.
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A man's risk for developing prostate cancer is higher if his father or brother has had the disease.
Other Risk Factors
Diet also may play a role. There is some evidence that a diet high in animal fat may increase the risk of prostate cancer and a diet high in fruits and vegetables may decrease the risk. Studies to find out whether men can reduce their risk of prostate cancer by taking certain dietary supplements are ongoing.
Scientists have wondered whether an enlarged prostate, a condition also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, might increase the risk for prostate cancer. They have also studied obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, radiation exposure, and a sexually transmitted virus to see if they might increase risk. But at this time, there is little evidence that any of these factors contribute to an increased risk.