Who is at risk for prostate cancer?

Put in the simplest way, no one knows what causes some men to get prostate cancer while other men don’t. Scientists and clinical researchers have been working hard to try to discover the answer to this very basic question. We know much more now that we did 25 years ago, but we still don’t know that much. It would be great if we could find some better answers soon!

For a while, people have suspected that there are several things that place individual men at particular risk for the development of prostate cancer. So here are the most important things we do know. The recognized risk factors for prostate cancer include age, race, genetics, and environment (potentially including one’s diet).

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 233,000 American men are expected to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014. This is compared to 165,000 in 1993 and 184,500 in 1998. In other words, the incidence of prostate cancer appears to have been rising slowly … but in fact it rose rapidly from 1993 to 1996 and then fell again.

Also in 2014, the number of American men who are predicted to die of prostate cancer is 29,480. This is down significantly from a projected number of over 37,000 in 1998, so we must be doing something right! Approximately 2 percent of all deaths of American men are currently believed to be caused by prostate cancer. This is a large number of people, but it means that only two men in every 100 will actually die of the disease.

The fact that more American men are expected be found to have prostate cancer in 2014 compared to 1998 is not necessarily because more men are getting prostate cancer. It is in fact highly likely that we have become much better at finding prostate cancer. However, men are living longer than they used to, so their chances of living long enough to get prostate cancer are increased.

It is also true that we are diagnosing prostate cancer earlier in men at significant risk.

Content on this page last reviewed and updated March 16, 2014.