There are many risk factors associated with prostate cancer. Risk factors can be a behaviour, substance or condition.
- Behaviours such as eating a diet rich in animal fats and red meat or being overweight can contribute to the growth of cancer cells and the increased malignancy of prostate cancers.
- Substances such as excess calcium, vitamin D deficiency, smoking, pesticides or other occupational exposures can also lead to the rapid development of cancer in the prostate.
- Conditions such as the hereditary factors of prostate cancer combined with age and ethnic origin are the most clearly traced risk factors.
- 99 percent of prostate cancer cases occur in men older than 50 years old. In men younger than the age of 40, cancer is usually correlated to genetic factors.
A familial disposition is present in about 15 percent of cases. If your father or brother has had prostate cancer, you are twice as likely to develop the disease. If other relatives have also had it, the risk is even greater. The risk increases further if the women in the family have had a history of ovarian or breast cancer.
Inherited gene mutations may increase the chance of developing prostate cancer. The gene BRCA2 that is linked to breast and ovarian cancer may also be a precursor of prostate cancer. Men with a defective BRCA2 gene are five times more at risk of contracting prostate cancer.1
Ethnic origins also play a role. Men of African origins are more likely to receive a diagnosis at a younger age compared to Caucasian or Asian men. In African men, the tumour tends to be more aggressive and advanced.
Studies have shown that a history of sexually transmitted diseases, prostatitis (an enlarged prostate), infections, and chronic inflammation can lead to repeated prostate tissue damage which in turn, may increase the incidence of cancer. Genetic susceptibility to chronic inflammation and tissue damage may also affect the likelihood of developing prostate cancer.
Male hormones or androgens are responsible for the growth, development, and functioning of the reproductive system. Research has established that blocking the testosterone hormone can cause a regression in a prostate tumour, this form of treatment is known as hormone therapy.
Other potential factors that are being studied include: testosterone therapy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), lack of physical activity, and sedentary behaviour.
Prostate cancer is more common among people that use anabolic steroids because they increase the levels of testosterone within the body. It’s important to consider the risks before experimenting with steroids.
Aspirins and statins can decrease the levels of prostate-specific-antigen (PSA) in the blood. It’s important to let your urologist know that you’re on these medications when undergoing a PSA screening since a lower value may mask the signs of prostate cancer.