Prostate cancer risks and prevention

About 1 in 8 men gets prostate cancer, making it the most common cancer (besides skin cancer) among American men.1 Luckily, most cases are slow-growing or don’t even grow at all. That’s why 96% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are alive 5 years after their diagnosis.2

Those are great odds. The trouble is that there are usually no symptoms of prostate cancer in its earliest stage.3 That’s why screening tests are so important. They help providers detect prostate cancer when it’s most treatable.3 Learn the risk factors that raise your chances of getting the disease and how to lower the ones that are in your control.

Prostate cancer risk factors

Any man can get prostate cancer, but some factors put certain men at higher risk. Here are some of them.


About 60% of prostate cancer cases are diagnosed after age 65.4 "Generally, the incidence rates of many cancers increase with age," says S. Adam Ramin, M.D., a urologic oncologist and the medical director at Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles.

Family history

Family history may affect prostate cancer risk too. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles the risk of developing the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.4

Another risk factor is having the BRCA genes, which also increases the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.4 So, having a mother or sister with breast cancer or ovarian cancer linked to these genetic mutations may also increase your odds.


African American men have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer — 1 in 6, compared with 1 in 8 white men.5 “There may be genetic, dietary and environmental factors that make prostate cancer more likely to occur in the African American population,” Dr. Ramin says.

Even more alarming, African American men are twice as likely to die from the disease, compared with white men.5 Black men also tend to develop a more aggressive form of the disease and get it at a younger age.5 They also tend to be diagnosed at later stages of the disease, because of more limited access to health care and screenings, Dr. Ramin explains.

Lifestyle and environmental risks

There are some links between daily habits and higher odds of developing prostate cancer, particularly the more aggressive, fast-moving kind. These include:4, 5

  • Diet. Eating too few vegetables, especially from the broccoli family, and too much saturated fat may be a factor in prostate cancer.
  • Weight. Being obese may raise the odds of developing the more aggressive kind.
  • Exercise. Not being physically active may raise the odds of aggressive prostate cancer.

How to lower prostate cancer risk

There’s nothing you can do about your genetic makeup or getting older. But you can do something about the way you go about your daily life. Start with these steps.

Limit red meat and processed meat

“The risk of prostate cancer is higher in Western societies, and we think it may be diet-related,” Dr. Ramin says. In particular, eating high amounts of red meat and processed meat may be associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer, according to a 2022 review in Frontiers in Nutrition.6 Choose leaner protein sources such as turkey, chicken, eggs, tofu and fish.

Eat more produce

Particularly lots of cruciferous vegetables. Veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy and radishes contain chemical compounds that can decrease inflammation, among other benefits.7

Dr. Ramin also recommends dark berries such as blackberries and black raspberries. They are rich in antioxidants, which may also help prevent prostate cancer, he adds.

Take vitamin D

One study suggests that having enough vitamin D in the body (45–70 nmol/L) lowers your risk of prostate cancer.8 Vitamin D strengthens the immune system, which may reduce the likelihood of developing prostate cancer, Dr. Ramin explains.

Still, it’s important to talk to a provider before adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet. Too much of the vitamin can cause other health problems.8

Stay at a healthy weight

Or, if you are overweight, try to lose at least 5% of your body weight to cut the risk of fast-growing prostate cancer. Dr. Ramin typically advises his overweight patients to exercise at least 2 or 3 times a week. Physical activity, most importantly cardiovascular exercise, paired with a healthy diet, can help you maintain a healthy weight, he says.

Schedule a prostate exam

Regular prostate cancer screenings are key for staying healthy. A screening usually includes a blood test that looks for a specific tumor marker produced by cells in the prostate gland, called PSA. Typically, PSA levels are higher in men with prostate cancer.9 But sometimes PSA levels are higher in men who don’t have cancer. Therefore, if your PSA levels are elevated, you’ll probably need additional testing, such as an ultrasound, to determine whether you do have prostate cancer.9

When should you be screened? The American Cancer Society recommends consulting with your health care provider and using the following screening guidelines:10

  • Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years.
  • Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African American men and those with a first-degree relative father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65.
  • Age 40 for men at even higher risk of developing prostate cancer. For example, men with more than one first-degree relative, like a father or brother, who had prostate cancer at an early age.

You can take steps to reduce your prostate cancer risk. Even if you don’t prevent it, detecting prostate cancer in the early stages can help make it easier to manage and treat.

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