Prostate Cancer Awareness

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men

Several types of cells are found in the prostate, but almost all prostate cancers develop from the gland cells. Gland cells make the prostate fluid that is added to the semen. The medical term for a cancer that starts in gland cells is adenocarcinoma.

Other types of cancer can also start in the prostate gland, including sarcomas, small cell carcinomas, and transitional cell carcinomas. But these types of prostate cancer are so rare that if you have prostate cancer it is almost certain to be an adenocarcinoma.

The latest American Cancer Society estimates for prostate cancer in the United States are for 2015:

  • About 220,800 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed
  • About 27,540 men will die of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer occurs mainly in older men. About 6 cases in 10 are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is rare before age 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.

About 1 man in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer.

Source: American Cancer Society - What are the key statistics about prostate cancer?

Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed. Others, like a person's age or family history, can't be changed.

But risk factors don't tell us everything. Many people with one or more risk factors never get cancer, while others who get cancer may have had few or no known risk factors.

Studies have found the following risk factors for prostate cancer:

  • Age:
    Prostate cancer is very rare in men younger than 40, but the chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50. About 6 in 10 cases of prostate cancer are found in men over the age of 65.
  • Race/ethnicity:
    Prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races. African-American men are also more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage, and are more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men. Prostate cancer occurs less often in Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino men than in non-Hispanic whites. The reasons for these racial and ethnic differences are not clear.
  • Nationality:
    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.
  • Family history:
    Prostate cancer seems to run in some families, which suggests that in some cases there may be an inherited or genetic factor. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man's risk of developing this disease. (The risk is higher for men who have a brother with the disease than for those with an affected father.) The risk is much higher for men with several affected relatives, particularly if their relatives were young at the time the cancer was found.
  • Genes:
    Scientists have found several inherited gene changes that seem to raise prostate cancer risk, but they probably account for only a small number of cases overall. Genetic testing for most of these gene changes is not yet available.
  • Diet:
    The exact role of diet in prostate cancer is not clear, but several factors have been studied.

    Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer. These men also tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. Doctors are not sure which of these factors is responsible for raising the risk.
  • Obesity:
    Most studies have not found that being obese (very overweight) is linked with a higher risk of getting prostate cancer overall.

Source American Cancer Society: What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?.


The exact cause of prostate cancer is not known, so at this time it is not possible to prevent most cases of the disease. Many risk factors such as age, race, and family history cannot be controlled. But based on what we do know, there are some things you can do that might lower your risk of prostate cancer.

The effects of body weight, physical activity, and diet on prostate cancer risk are not clear, but there may be things you can do that might lower your risk.

Some studies have found that men who are overweight may have a slightly lower risk of prostate cancer overall, but a higher risk of prostate cancers that are likely to be fatal.

Studies have found that men who get regular physical activity have a slightly lower risk of prostate cancer. Vigorous activity may have a greater effect, especially on the risk of advanced prostate cancer.

Several studies have suggested that diets high in certain vegetables (including tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables, soy, beans, and other legumes) or fish may be linked with a lower risk of prostate cancer, especially more advanced cancers. Examples of cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Source American Cancer Society: Can prostate cancer be prevented?


Not everyone experiences symptoms of prostate cancer. Many times, signs of prostate cancer are first detected by a doctor during a routine check-up.

Some men, however, will experience changes in urinary or sexual function that might indicate the presence of prostate cancer. These symptoms include:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
  • Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Difficulty in having an erection
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs

Source Prostate Cancer Foundation: Prostate Cancer Symptoms

Continue learning about prostate cancer:

back to top