Am I at risk of prostate cancer?
In the UK, about 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. We don't know exactly what causes prostate cancer but there are some things that may mean you are more likely to get it – these are called risk factors.
There are three main risk factors for getting prostate cancer, which are things you can't change. These are:
- getting older – it mainly affects men aged 50 or over
- having a family history of prostate cancer
- being black.
If you have any of these risk factors or if you have any symptoms, speak to your GP. They can talk to you about your risk, and about the tests that are used to diagnose prostate cancer. You can also get in touch with our Specialist Nurses, who can help you understand your risk of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer mainly affects men over 50, and your risk increases as you get older. The most common age for men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer is between 65 and 69 years. If you’re under 50, your risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer is very low, but it is possible.
If you're over 50 and you're worried about your risk of prostate cancer, you might want to ask your GP about tests for prostate cancer. If you're over 45 but have a higher risk of prostate cancer – because you have a family history of prostate cancer or you're a black man – you might want to talk to your GP too.
Our Specialist Nurses can also help you understand your risk of getting prostate cancer.
Family history and genetics
Your family history is information about any health problems that have affected your family. Families have many common factors, such as their genes, environment and lifestyle. Together, these factors can help suggest if you are more likely to get some health conditions.
Inside every cell in our body is a set of instructions called genes. These are passed down (inherited) from our parents. Genes control how the body grows, works and what it looks like. If something goes wrong with one or more genes (known as a gene fault or mutation), it can sometimes cause cancer.
Is prostate cancer hereditary?
If people in your family have prostate cancer or breast cancer, it might increase your own risk of getting prostate cancer. This is because you may have inherited the same faulty genes.
My father had prostate cancer. What are my risks?
- You are two and a half times more likely to get prostate cancer if your father or brother has had it, compared to a man who has no relatives with prostate cancer.
- Your chance of getting prostate cancer may be even greater if your father or brother was under 60 when he was diagnosed, or if you have more than one close relative (father or brother) with prostate cancer.
- Your risk of getting prostate cancer may also be higher if your mother or sister has had breast cancer.
Although prostate cancer can run in families, having a family history doesn’t mean you will get it. But it's important to speak to your GP if you have any relatives with prostate cancer or breast cancer, as your risk of hereditary prostate cancer may be higher.
Do you have a family history of prostate cancer?
If you're over 45 and your father or brother has had prostate cancer, you may want to talk to your GP. Our Specialist Nurses can also help you understand your hereditary risk of prostate cancer.
Black men are more likely to get prostate cancer than other men. We don’t know why, but it might be linked to genes. In the UK, about 1 in 4 black men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime.*
If you have mixed black ethnicity, you are likely to be at higher risk of prostate cancer than a white man. But we don’t know your exact risk because we don’t have enough information on prostate cancer in men with mixed black ethnicity. And we don’t know whether it makes a difference if it’s your mother or father who is black.
If you're a black man and you're over 45, speak to your GP about your risk of prostate cancer, even if you don't have any symptoms. Remember to tell them if you have a family history of prostate cancer or breast cancer. You can also contact our Specialist Nurses.
*This statistic was worked out using information about men recorded as ‘black African’, ‘black Caribbean’ and ‘black other’.
Can prostate cancer be prevented?
No one knows how to prevent prostate cancer, but a healthy lifestyle may be important.
Being overweight may increase your risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer that’s aggressive (more likely to spread) or advanced (cancer that has spread outside the prostate). Eating healthily and keeping active can help you stay a healthy weight.
Read more about diet, physical activity and prostate cancer risk.
References and reviewers
Updated: August 2019 | To be reviewed: August 2022
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• Miranda Benney, Cancer Clinical Programme Manager, University Hospitals Plymouth
• Simon Bott, Consultant Urologist, Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, Portsmouth
• Frank Chinegwundoh, Consultant Urological Surgeon, Barts Health NHS Trust, London
• Christopher Eden, Consultant Urological Surgeon, The Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford
• Our Specialist Nurses
• Our Volunteers.