Prostate cancer risk factors

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Syed Musadiq Ali M.B.B.S.[2]

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Common risk factors in the development of prostate cancer are family history, African American men, dietary factors, obesity, elevated blood levels of testosterone, inherited gene mutation, inflammation of the prostate, tall adult height, exposure to pesticides, and occupational exposures.

Risk Factors

Common Risk Factors

Common risk factors in the development of prostate cancer include:

Less Common Risk Factors




Vitamin and mineral supplements

  • Multivitamins
  • Folic acid and B12 —
    • High serum folic acid and B12 levels is associated with a small increase in the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Selenium
    • High blood levels of selenium is associated with lower risk of aggressive disease (advanced-stage disease).
  • Zinc
    • Studies have showed an association between zinc supplement use and prostate cancer risk. Supplemental zinc intake at doses of up to 100 mg/day was not associated with prostate cancer risk. However, men who consumed more than 100 mg/day of supplemental zinc had a relative risk of advanced prostate cancer.[15]
  • Calcium and vitamin D
    • Intake of dairy products and calcium and a higher risk of prostate cancer risk has been suggested.[16].
    • Higher levels of vitamin D is associated with increased aggressiveness in those men diagnosed with prostate cancer (Gleason score ≥7 or stage III or IV disease)[17].

Cigarette Smoking


  • Physical activity-
    • There was no association overall between prostate cancer incidence and total, vigorous or non-vigorous physical activity in the entire population.
    • However, men over the age of 65 who were in the highest category of vigorous activity (more than three hours per week of vigorous activity) had a significantly lower risk of advanced prostate cancer.
    • Another report from the same investigators suggests that young lean men who are more physically active have an increased risk of developing metastatic disease and fatal prostate cancer if they had a high energy intake[24].

5-alpha reductase inhibitors


Trichomonas vaginalis infection

Environmental carcinogens



Ultraviolet light exposure

EBRT for rectal cancer

  • External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) for prostate cancer is associated with an increased risk of rectal cancer.
  • RT for rectal cancer has not been associated with an increased risk of subsequent prostate cancer.
  • In a study based upon the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, the risk of prostate cancer was decreased by 72 percent in 1572 men who had previously received EBRT as a component of their treatment for rectal cancer[36].


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