Are you at Risk of Developing Prostate Cancer?

by Kim Foster, MD

Not all men have the same risk of developing prostate cancer—do you have any idea where you fall on the spectrum? Risk factors fall into two broad categories: modifiable and non-modifiable. It’s important to take stock of both.

Age is one of the key non-modifiable risk factors. As you get older, your risk increases, especially over the age of 50. Most prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65.
A family history of prostate cancer will also increase your chances of
developing the disease. If you have several affected relatives, your risk is
higher still, especially if those men were diagnosed at a young age. Ethnicity also appears to increase risk—specifically, men of African ancestry have a higher probability of developing prostate cancer.
In terms of modifiable risk factors, a diet high in red meat or full-fat dairy products, and low in fruits and vegetables, seems to increase the risk of prostate cancer. Some studies have found a very high calcium intake is associated with increased risk, but the findings have been conflicting.

There is some preliminary research to show that obesity and smoking may be two further risk factors for prostate cancer, but the evidence isn’t quite in yet. In general, of course, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight are cornerstone practices for any healthy lifestyle
The important thing to do is work on the risk factors you can, be aware of the risk factors you can’t, and take it all into consideration when deciding about screening. Want to know more about screening methods? Read this next.

Updated March 19, 2013

Bio: Dr. Kim Foster is a family physician, writer, and mom. She has been practicing medicine for 13 years, and makes regular TV, radio, and speaking appearances. Online, you can find her blogging about healthy living at and

In 2003 Dr. Kim’s own father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He underwent a radical prostatectomy in that same year and, happily, has been healthy and cancer-free ever since.


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