What Causes Prostate Cancer?

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Families share many common factors, including their genes, environment, and lifestyle. These factors may suggest if you are more likely to develop certain health conditions, including prostate cancer. Although prostate cancer often runs in families, having a family history does not mean you will get it.

In the UK, about 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime.

It is not known exactly what causes prostate cancer, although several risk factors have been identified. These include age, ethnicity, genetics and lifestyle. 


Prostate cancer mainly affects men over 50, and the risk rises as you get older. Men are most often diagnosed with prostate cancer between the ages of 70 and 74 years. Men under 50 have a very low risk of having prostate cancer.


Black men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than other men with about 1 in 4 black men getting prostate cancer in their lifetime. The reason for this is unknown although it seems likely to be linked to your genetics. 

Black men over 45 should talk to their doctors about the risk of prostate cancer, even when they do not have symptoms.

Obesity And Diet

Recent research indicates that there may be a link between obesity and prostate cancer. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy diet and regular exercise, may lower your risk of developing prostate cancer.

Preliminary research suggests that prostate cancer might be linked to a diet high in calcium.

Family History

If your brother or father developed prostate cancer before the age of 60 you might have a higher risk of developing it. You are 250% more likely to develop prostate cancer if your father or brother has had it, compared to a man who has no relatives with prostate cancer.

Your chance of developing prostate cancer may be even higher if your father or brother was under 60 when he was diagnosed, or if you have more than one close relative with prostate cancer.

You may also be more prone to developing prostate cancer if you have a close female relative who developed breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

Gene Mutations 

Cancer can occur when one or more genes, which are inherited from our parents, become faulty (or mutate). These gene mutations may develop over time, or they can be inherited.

Two gene mutations commonly associated with prostate cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Everyone has BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are inherited from our parents. The function of the BRCA genes is to maintain healthy cell growth and prevent the growth of cancer cells.

Having a BRCA gene mutation is very rare, with only 1 in over 300 people having a faulty BRCA gene. An exception is people from an Ashkenazi Jewish background who have a higher risk, with around 1 in 40 people carrying the BRCA gene mutation.

Evidence is unclear but suggests that men with a BRCA2 gene mutation may have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer during their lifetime. Having a BRCA1 mutation might slightly increase your risk of developing prostate cancer.

Research suggests that having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation may also increase your risk of developing prostate cancer at a younger age or having aggressive prostate cancer.

The Risk Of Developing Prostate Cancer

While it's prevalent among men above 50, with the risk increasing with age, certain groups like black men are notably more susceptible to prostate cancer. Other risk factors include obesity, diet, especially one high in calcium, and a family history of prostate or other cancers like breast or ovarian.

Inherited gene mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, also play a role in the probability of developing prostate cancer.

However, it's important to note that having these risk factors doesn't guarantee the development of the disease. Continuing research is crucial for enhancing our understanding of the complex interplay of these factors and prostate cancer, potentially aiding early detection, prevention strategies, and treatment.

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