by EBSCO Medical Review Board

A risk factor is something that affects your chance of getting cancer. Some, like smoking, can be changed. Others like genetics cannot.

Having risk factors does not mean you will get this cancer. You can also get cancer even without these risks. Talk to you care team about your risks.

Things that may increase the risk of prostate cancer include:


Prostate cancer is rare in men under 40 years old. The risk of prostate cancer rises after age 50. Most occur in men older than 65.


Prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry. Prostate cancer occurs less often in Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino men. The reasons for these differences are not clear.


Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and on Caribbean islands. It is less common in Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America. The reasons for this are not clear. Lifestyle habits may play a role.

Family history

Prostate cancer seems to run in some families. This may mean there is a genetic factor. Still, most prostate cancers occur in men without a family history. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing this disease. The risk is higher if a brother has prostate cancer than a father. The more relatives have prostate cancer the higher the risk will be.

Gene changes

Some gene changes are passed down in families. Certain changes increase the risk of prostate cancer. For example:

  • Changes in BRCA1 or BRCA2 may increase prostate cancer risk in some men
  • Lynch syndrome (hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer) increases risk for prostate cancer.

Factors With Less Clear Effect on Prostate Cancer Risk

  • Diet—studies are not clear on the exact effect of diet. Some things that may play a role, though not fully proven, include:
    • Diets high in red meat and fat may increase the risk. High meat diets are often low in vegetables and fruit. This may be a part of increased risk for cancer.
    • High amounts of calcium from diet or supplements. This is higher than the amount found in the average diet.
  • Chemicals—firefighters may have an increased risk of prostate cancer. It is thought to be due to chemicals that they come in contact with on the job.

Smoking or obesity has not been found to increase the risk of prostate cancer itself. However, they are linked to a higher risk of dying from prostate cancer.


Prostate cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated October 16, 2018. Accessed December 19, 2019.

Prostate cancer risk factors. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Updated August 1, 2019. Accessed December 19, 2019.

What causes prostate cancer? Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: Updated August 2018. Accessed December 19, 2019.

9/4/2013 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance. : Ansbaugh N, Shannon J, et al. Agent Orange as a risk factor for high-grade prostate cancer. Cancer. 2013;119(13):2399-2404.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA
  • Review Date: 09/2019
  • Update Date: 12/01/2020