The risk of cancer is increased by events that happen naturally, the characteristics you are born with, or things you do that increase your chance of developing the disease. This means some risk factors you can do something about, and others you can’t.

It is important to be aware of all of these risk factors. Remember that risk factors are about the chances of developing a disease. They do not mean developing the disease is a foregone conclusion.

There have been many studies looking at risk factors for prostate cancer. Factors that are most strongly linked to an increased chance of developing prostate cancer are:

Age

Prostate cancer is an age-dependent disease, which means the chance of developing the disease generally increases with age. Prostate cancer is rarely diagnosed in men under 40 and usually affects men over 60. The risk of having prostate cancer by the age of 85 is 1 in 6 men. The estimated risk of a man dying from prostate cancer by his 85th birthday is 1 in 35.

Family history

If a man has a first degree male relative with prostate cancer (father or brother), he has a higher chance of developing prostate cancer than men with no such history. The risk increases again if more than one male relative has prostate cancer. Risks are also highest for men whose male relatives with prostate cancer were diagnosed when young.

Other factors that may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer:

Genetics

Genes are found in every cell of the body. They control the way the cells in the body grow and behave. Every person has a set of many thousands of genes inherited from both parents.

Changes to genes can increase the risk of prostate cancer being passed from parent to child. Although prostate cancer can’t be inherited, a man can inherit genes that can increase the risk.

Diet

There is some evidence to suggest that eating a lot of processed meat or food that is high in fat may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Lifestyle

There is evidence showing that environment and lifestyle can affect prostate cancer risk. For example, Asia has the lowest rates of prostate cancer, but when a man from an Asian country migrates to a Western country, his risk of developing prostate cancer increases. This suggests that external factors like environment and lifestyle can change a man’s level of risk in developing prostate cancer.

If you see yourself as having some of these risk factors, it may be a good idea to speak with your doctor about what you need to do and read the following section.