Who is at risk for prostate cancer?

The number of cases of prostate cancer has dropped among white American men. Among black men, the disease rate and death rate are twice as high as those of white men, according to the American Cancer Society.

The following are some of the risk factors for prostate cancer:

  • Age. The greatest risk factor for prostate cancer is age. More than 75 percent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men older than 65.
  • Family history. Men whose relatives have had prostate cancer are considered to be at high risk. Having a father or brother with the disease doubles your risk for prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Therefore, screening for prostate cancer should be started at age 40 in men with a family history of the disease.
  • To date, two genes have been identified that can lead to prostate cancer. Experts estimate that the hereditary form of prostate cancer accounts for just 9 percent of all cases.
  • Race. African-Americans have the highest incidence of prostate cancer. They are 30 to 50 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than other races in the U.S. Japanese and African men living in their native countries have a low incidence of prostate cancer. Rates for these groups increase sharply when they immigrate to the U.S.
  • African-American men, therefore, are another group for whom prostate cancer screening should begin at age 40. The higher rate of prostate cancer in African-American men suggests that the environment may play a role, including: high-fat diets, not enough exposure to the sun, exposure to heavy metals such as cadmium, infectious agents, or smoking.
  • Diet. Research also suggests that a high-fat diet may lead to prostate cancer. The disease is much more common in countries in which meat and dairy products are commonly eaten, compared with countries in which the basic diet consists of rice, soybean products, and vegetables.
  • Male hormones. High levels of male hormones called androgens may increase the risk of prostate cancer for some men, according to the American Cancer Society.
  • Inactive lifestyle. You may be able to reduce your risk for prostate cancer by getting regular exercise and maintaining your ideal weight.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/24/2015.


  • National Cancer Institute. Prostate cancer—for patients Accessed 4/16/18.
  • American Cancer Society. Prostate cancer Accessed 4/16/18.
  • Corn P, Logothetis C. Chapter 34. Prostate Cancer. In: Kantarjian HM, Wolff RA, Koller CA. eds. The MD Anderson Manual of Medical Oncology, 2e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2011.

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