A risk factor is anything that can increase the likelihood of developing a disease/condition. Some of these factors can be changed, such as dietary factors or smoking, and some cannot be changed, such as family history or age.
However, having these factors does not mean that you will get the disease; the presence of risk factors only means that you are at a higher risk of developing that disease than your peers without the risk factors.
Here we discuss the risk factors of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland start to grow out of control.
Knowing the risk factors
The exact cause of prostate cancer is not known; however, the following are the risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing prostate cancer:
The risk of prostate cancer increases with age. It is rare in men younger than 40 years old. This risk increases rapidly after the age of 50 years. Nearly 6 in 10 men diagnosed with prostate cancer are older than 65 years.
Race and ethnicity
Men of African descent are at 76% increased risk of developing prostate cancer than white men and are 2.2 times more likely to die from the disease. Men belonging to the African descent who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are usually young.
Prostate cancer is less common among men of Asian descent. The reasons for these racial differences are not yet determined.
Prostate cancer can run in some families. A man has two times higher risk of prostate cancer, if the person’s father or brother has/had prostate cancer; although the risk is much higher if the brother has prostate cancer.
Having 2 or more relatives with prostate cancer increases the risk by 4 times. The risk is greater if the family member was diagnosed before the age of 65 years.
If a family has a strong history of cancers, like ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or pancreatic cancer, the men of this family are also at higher risk of prostate cancer.
For a small percentage of cases, many inherited genetic changes can increase the risk of prostate cancer. Inherited mutated genes BRCA1 or BRCA2, which increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers in women, can also increase the risk of prostate cancer in men (especially mutations in BRCA2).
Lynch syndrome (or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer) increases the risk of several cancers including prostate cancer.
Some studies have have found that obese men have a high risk of being diagnosed with aggressive or advanced cancer.
The definite role of diet in prostate cancer has not been understood completely, but various factors have been studied. Men who consume a lot of dairy products and calcium (through food or supplements) have been found to have increased chances of developing prostate cancer. In some studies, men who ate diets rich in fat had an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Some studies have related smoking to a small increased risk of mortality from prostate cancer. However, this finding requires confirmation by more studies.
Prostate cancer prevention: Ways to reduce your risk
Although there is no clear way to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, maintaining overall good health can help prevent prostate cancer.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet along with good physical activity can reduce the risk. Evidence suggests that a diet low in fat and abundance of fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of prostate cancer.
Given below are some tips which may help to reduce prostate cancer risk:
Have a low-fat diet
Consuming a low-fat diet helps to control weight, which may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Limit consumption of red meat, including pork, lamb etc and processed meats. Try to reduce the amount of fat that is added to foods when cooking, select leaner cuts of meat, and choose low-fat or reduced-fat dairy products.
Have a variety of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain plenty of vitamins and nutrients, which may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. At least five portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables must be eaten every day. Having more fruits and vegetables also reduces cravings for other high-fat or junk foods.
Reduce consumption of dairy products
Studies suggest that men who consume a lot of dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and milk are at an increased risk of prostate cancer. Decrease the intake of these products and choose dairy alternatives, such as almond milk and soya drinks.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Men who are obese, a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher may have an increased risk of prostate cancer. Obese men should try losing weight by reducing the number of calories in the diet and increasing physical exercise.
Maintaining a healthy weight by exercising most days of the week and choosing a healthy diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is important.
Keep physically active
Studies of exercise and prostate cancer risk have mostly shown that men who exercise may have a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Exercise has many other health benefits and may reduce the risk of heart disease and other cancers. Exercise can help maintain or to lose weight and thereby help in reducing the risk of prostate cancer.