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Prostate Cancer


Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, excluding skin cancer. About 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that 191,930 new cases of prostate cancer and 33,330 deaths related to prostate cancer are expected to occur in the United States in 2020. Prostate cancer can be a serious disease, but most men who are diagnosed do not die from it. Statistics show that more than 3.1 million men in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in life are still alive today. All men are at risk for prostate cancer. However, prostate cancer is more likely to develop in older men and men of African American ancestry. Family history is another factor that increases cancer risk.

Prostate cancer develops when there is an out-of-control growth of cells in the prostate. Prostate cancer tends to grow slowly compared with most other cancers. The prostate is a gland that is part of the male reproductive system. The prostate is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It surrounds the urethra, the tube through which urine flows, and makes part of the seminal fluid. In younger men, the prostate is about the size of a walnut. As men age the prostate tends to increase in size. If the prostate grows too large, it squeezes the urethra which may narrow and decrease urine flow. Although men may experience prostate changes, that does not necessarily indicate prostate cancer. In fact, some prostate conditions have similar symptoms but are not linked to cancer. Most men do not have symptoms of prostate cancer until the disease has already advanced. It is important that men talk to a doctor about any signs of prostate changes.

Risk Factors

Although medical experts do not exactly know what causes prostate cancer or how to prevent it, research has shown that men with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop prostate cancer. Risk factors include:

  • Age- Age is the main risk factor for prostate cancer. The chance of getting prostate cancer increases as men get older. About 6 out of 10 cases are diagnosed in men over age 65. Prostate cancer is rare in men under age 40.
  • Family History- The risk is 2 to 3 times higher if a father or brother has had prostate cancer than men without a family history of the disease.
  • Certain inherited genetic conditions: Lynch syndrome, and BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.
  • Race-African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer and twice as likely to die from prostate cancer compared to white or Hispanic and Latino men. It is less common among Asian and Pacific Islanders and American Indian and Alaskan Native men.

Lowering Risk

Although there is no sure way to prevent prostate cancer, there may be some things you can do to lower your risk:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Be physically active.
  • Increase intake of fruits and vegetables and whole grains; avoid or limit sweets and processed foods.
  • Limit the amount of calcium in your diet.

Recommendations for Prostate Cancer Screenings

Men who are 50 years of age or older, at average risk of prostate cancer, and have a life expectancy of at least 10 years should talk to their doctor about prostate cancer screening and treatment options. Men who are at the highest risk for prostate cancer are encouraged to begin screening at age 40. Healthcare providers should discuss with patients the benefits and limitations of PSA testing to encourage informed

decision-making about whether to be tested based on the personal values and preferences of the patient. See the latest USPSTF recommendations on prostate cancer screening.

Talk to Nathan

Talk to Someone about Prostate Cancer Simulation

Talk to Nathan is a virtual human simulation developed to help men get a better understanding of prostate health, prostate cancer risks, and screening and treatment options.

For more information about screening including a list of free screenings near you, visit Prostate Screenings.

Additional Resources

Page last updated: August 10, 2023