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(A-Z listing includes diseases, conditions, tests and procedures)

Prostate Cancer: Risk Factors

Three generations of African-American men smiling at the camera

In general, all men are at risk for prostate cancer during their lifetime. However, there are specific risk factors that increase the likelihood that certain men will develop the disease, including the following:

  • Age: Aggressive prostate cancer is virtually nonexistent in men under 40. With age, however, the chance of developing prostate cancer increases. Nearly two-thirds of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over 65, and nearly one-half of prostate cancer deaths occur in men initially diagnosed after 75.

  • Race: Prostate cancer is about twice as common among African-American men as it is among white American men. Prostate cancer risk may also be elevated in Scandinavian men. Historically, incidence in eastern Asia (Japan and China) has been low. However, when Chinese and Japanese men immigrate to the U.S., they have an increased risk of and mortality rate from prostate cancer when compared to their native populations. In Japan, the incidence of prostate cancer has increased as Western diets and lifestyles have been adopted.

  • Diet: Epidemiological data suggest that the diet consumed in industrialized Western countries may be a factor in developing prostate cancer. Consider the following information regarding diet and its effect on the risk for prostate cancer:

    • Fat: Some studies suggest that men who eat a high-fat diet, especially if it is high in red meat or high-fat dairy products, may have a greater chance of developing prostate cancer.

    • Fruits and vegetables: Diets high in fruits and vegetables may lower prostate cancer risk, although it is not clear which nutrient(s) may be responsible for this.

    • Carotenoids: Carotenoids, such as lycopenes, have been shown to inhibit the growth of human prostate cancer cells grown in the laboratory. The primary source of lycopenes is processed tomatoes. Again, however, it is not clear if lycopenes affect prostate cancer risk in men, as not all studies have found a benefit. 

  • More Information About Prostate Cancer Risk from Johns Hopkins Medicine

    Fruits and vegetables to promote prostate health

    How does food affect prostate cancer?

    For patients with prostate cancer, researchers are looking for foods or nutrients that boost disease-fighting enzymes and help the body ward off prostate cancer.

    Add these to your plate to boost your health and reduce your risk of prostate cancer.

  • Obesity: Most studies have not found obesity to affect the risk of getting prostate cancer, but obese men may be more likely to develop more aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

  • Environmental exposures: Some studies show an increased risk of prostate cancer in men who are farmers or who are exposed to the metal cadmium while making batteries, welding or electroplating.

  • More Information About Prostate Cancer Risk from Johns Hopkins Medicine

    Affectionate couple laughing together

    Does sexual activity affect my risk of cancer?

    For years, men have wondered if sexual activity impacts their risk of prostate cancer. Elizabeth A. Platz, Sc.D., considers the science behind several theories linking sex to prostate cancer. She also reveals the findings of two significant studies designed to put the debate to rest.

    See how changes to your sex life could impact your risk.

  • Family history of prostate cancer. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer increases the risk of developing this disease. The risk is even higher for men with several affected relatives, particularly if the relatives were young at the time of diagnosis. Geneticists divide families into three groups, depending on the number of men with prostate cancer and their ages of onset, including the following:

    • Sporadic: A family with prostate cancer present in one man, at a typical age of onset

    • Familial: A family with prostate cancer present in more than one person, but with no definitive pattern of inheritance and usually an older age of onset

    • Hereditary: A family with a cluster of three or more affected relatives within any nuclear family (parents and their children), a family with prostate cancer in each of three generations on either the mother’s or father’s side, or a cluster of two relatives affected at a young age (55 or younger); 5 to 10 percent of prostate cancer cases are considered hereditary 

More Information About Prostate Cancer Risk from Johns Hopkins Medicine

Man preparing healthy meal in the kitchen

Tips for Keeping a Healthy Prostate

Everyday choices – such as adding leafy greens to your plate – can make a big difference when it comes to prostate health. Follow these three steps to stay healthy and reduce your risk of prostate cancer.

Read more.

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