Knowing your level of risk can help you develop your plan of attack. In general, men should begin testing for prostate cancer at age 45. If you have one ore more of the risk factors listed on this page (not including age), you should begin annual prostate cancer testing at age 40.
Age is the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer. One in every six men gets prostate cancer at some point in his lifetime. Men from 60 to 79 have a 14.76 percent chance (1 in 7) Men from 40 to 59 have a 2.58 percent chance (1 in 39) Men under 40 have a 0.01 percent chance (1 in 9,876) While it is rare for men under 50 to get prostate cancer, those cases tend to be more aggressive.
Compared with men who have no family history of the disease, men with a father or brother who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer have more than twice the risk of being diagnosed. Men with two or more relatives have about five times the risk. Men with three or more relatives are almost guaranteed to get prostate cancer.
Rates of prostate cancer in the U.S. are 60 percent higher among African-American men, and the mortality rate is two-and-a-half times that of Caucasian men. Studies are being done on potential differences in physiology, diet and access to care.
Rates for Asian men in the U.S. are lower than average, which may be a result of traditional diets.
Hispanic men have a risk of getting prostate cancer similar to the general population, however, rates of death due to the disease have not declined over recent years as they have for Caucasian and African-American men.
Learn more about Prostate Cancer and the African-American Community
Diet and Obesity
The "Western or Cowboy diet," which is high in fat, meat and sugar, and low in fruits, vegetables and fiber may be one of the greatest factors contributing to prostate cancer. Studies suggest a strong relationship between consumption of saturated fat or dairy fat and prostate cancer, while polyunsaturated fats such as Omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent the disease.
Obese men, those with a body mass index (BMI) of over 32.5, are 33 percent more likely to die from prostate cancer if diagnosed. Some studies suggest a relationship between obesity and higher risk, but it is hard to prove a direct link. Consumption of saturated fat and meat may be the determining factor, but the effect of obesity on hormone function may also play a significant role. Further studies are needed to determine the exact relationship between obesity and prostate cancer development.
People exposed to certain chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides may have higher than average rates of prostate cancer. One pesticide, methyl bromide, has shown a clear link to increased prostate cancer among exposed farm workers.
Veterans exposed to herbicides like Agent Orange may be at higher risk of prostate cancer. Studies of Vietnam veterans potentially provide the most direct evidence of the health effects on Agent Orange exposure. While most studies have shown to be inconclusive because of the small number of participants, most notable study in contract is an Air Force Health Study that specifically compared about 1,200 Ranch Hand veterans directly involved in herbicide distribution to 1,300 veterans not involved. This 20-year study, launched in 1982, involved periodic physical exams, medical record reviews, and blood dioxin measurements suggests those with direct contact with the subject may be twice as likely to get prostate cancer and die from it. However, the relatively small number of subjects, and the even smaller number with elevated blood dioxin levels, greatly limited the study's power to detect increases in cancer incidence.
Much research is being conducted to determine whether or not there is a genetic link to prostate cancer. In particular, researchers are looking to identify biomarkers in one's DNA which may lead to a diagnosis of prostate cancer.