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How to Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk

The prostate is an organ of the male reproductive system responsible for producing the seminal fluid that sustains and transports sperm. Cancerous cells may develop in the prostate gland, leading to cancer. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the United States and the most common cancer among older men, excluding skin cancers. While many risk factors for prostate cancer cannot be changed – such as a man’s age or racial/ethnic background – others can. In this article, Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA), one of the nation’s largest networks of oncology specialists, reviews risk factors for the disease and steps men can take to reduce their risk.

Two active men running in park for exercise to prevent prostate cancer

Knowing the Risk Factors

Medical researchers have identified several risk factors that may increase a person’s risk for developing prostate cancer. Risk factors do not guarantee that a person will develop a disease, and many people with one or multiple risk factors for prostate cancer are never diagnosed with the condition. Conversely, some men with prostate cancer have no known risk factors for the disease.

Prostate cancer risk factors can be divided into two categories  non-modifiable and modifiable. The first type, such as age, are beyond a man’s control, while modifiable risk factors are – at least to some degree – within a man’s ability to control. Non-modifiable risk factors include:


Prostate cancer is most common among older men. Although younger men can develop prostate cancer, the risk increases with age.


African-American men have the highest risk for prostate cancer of any racial or ethnic group. They are also more likely to die from the disease than white men. Prostate cancer is more common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean than in other parts of the world.

Genetic Mutations

Genetic changes play a role in the development of prostate cancer. These changes may be inherited or acquired. Inherited genes are those passed down to a person by his or her parents. Individuals with Lynch syndrome or BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are at a higher risk for prostate cancer, as are patients with other, less-common genetic syndromes.

Acquired genetic mutations develop over a lifetime. These changes occur in cells stemming from an originally mutated cell. Most genetic mutations related to prostate cancer are acquired.

Family History

If a man’s father or brother has or had prostate cancer, the man’s risk for prostate cancer is more than double the average risk. If more than one relative has or had prostate cancer, or if any of those people were relatively young when the disease developed, the risk also is greater. Researchers have found that having a brother with prostate cancer poses an even bigger risk than having a father with the disease. Still, most men with prostate cancer do not have a family history of the disease.

Other Risk Factors

Additional factors may heighten prostate cancer risk, although scientists have not determined the extent to which many of these factors increase risk. Patients have more control over these risk factors than the preceding factors. They include:

  • Diet: Diets that are marked by significant intake of high-fat dairy products and red meats and that are low in fruits and vegetables can increase the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Obesity: Being overweight appears to raise the risk of developing fast-growing prostate cancer.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals: Some occupations, such as firefighting, expose people to chemicals that might compound their prostate cancer risk.
  • Smoking: Some evidence suggests that smoking may increase the likelihood of dying from prostate cancer.
  • Sexually transmitted infections: STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause inflammation of the prostate, which may increase cancer risk.
  • Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland): Prostatitis may increase risk, as inflammation is often detected in samples of cancerous prostate tissue.
  • Vasectomy: Undergoing a vasectomy may slightly compound one’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk

Although the link between prostate cancer and many modifiable risk factors is less clear than the impact of non-modifiable risk factors, men can still make lifestyle changes to lower their risk. Consider the following strategies:

Make Dietary Changes

The following eating habits may reduce the risk of prostate cancer:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables, particularly leafy greens.
    • Cooked tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene that has been shown to impede the growth of cancer cells.
    • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower contain the compound sulforaphane, which may protect against prostate cancer.
  • Exchange red meats for fish and plant-based proteins, and avoid eating charred meats.
  • Limit intake of trans and saturated fats and replace them with healthier fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Watch calcium intake and opt to increase calcium from plant-based foods instead of supplements.
  • Consume soy products and green tea.

Engage in Regular Exercise

Exercise is important for all people. Beyond helping to manage weight, it can reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. After consulting their physician, people should engage in exercise that suits their physical fitness level.

Stop Smoking and Limit Alcohol Intake

Quitting smoking has many health benefits, including reducing the risk of prostate cancer. People may also consider stopping drinking alcohol or at least significantly lowering their alcohol intake.

Can Vitamins and Supplements Help Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk?

The scientific evidence regarding whether various vitamins and supplements can help reduce prostate cancer risk is rapidly evolving and unsettled, with one study sometimes contradicting the findings of studies conducted only a few years before. For example, fairly recent studies of Vitamin E suggested that it lowered the chances of developing prostate cancer. Subsequent research suggested the opposite — that individuals taking Vitamin E supplements were at a slightly higher risk for prostate cancer.

Similarly, folic acid is a type of vitamin B found in several foods and also sold as a supplement. The base of folic acid is folate, which is found in green vegetables and whole-grain breads. Research indicates that adequate intake of folate from foods can lower the risk of prostate cancer, but that taking folic acid supplements may increase risk for the disease.

Meanwhile, research into the efficacy of isoflavone (soy proteins) in reducing the risk of prostate cancer is promising. The bottom line: Talk with a physician before taking any vitamins, supplements, herbs, or other substances with the goal of reducing risk for prostate cancer or other disease.

Identifying the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer often does not cause any symptoms in its early stages. Further, even when they are present, many of the symptoms of prostate cancer are non-specific, meaning that they can be caused by any one of a number of conditions, most of which do not involve cancer. For example, difficulty urinating may be caused by an age-related, benign increase in the size of the prostate gland.

Many symptoms occur because of the prostate’s location in the body. As a tumor grows, it may press against and obstruct the bladder and urethra, affecting urination. Prostate cancer may also inhibit sexual activity because the prostate gland is integral in semen production. The following are signs and symptoms that may suggest prostate cancer:

  • Increased urination
  • Sudden urge to urinate at night
  • Pain while urination (burning, stinging)
  • Blood in urine
  • Slower, interrupted stream of urine
  • Decreased bladder and bowel control
  • Straining or pushing to urinate
  • Rectal pressure or discomfort
  • Differences in bowel movements
  • Onset of erectile dysfunction
  • Pain during ejaculation
  • Less fluid ejaculated than normal
  • Blood in semen or seminal fluid

As prostate cancer advances, symptoms may appear in other areas of the body. Pain is common in areas where cancer has spread (metastasized in medical terminology) and bone is the most frequent site for prostate cancer metastases. Pain in the pelvis, hips, and spine, as well as bone fractures, can result when prostate cancer spreads to the bone. Metastases might also compress nerves, causing numbness and weakness. Fatigue and sudden weight loss may also occur with prostate cancer.

Symptoms may differ depending on the type of prostate cancer. The various prostate cancer types include:

  • Acinar adenocarcinoma
  • Ductal adenocarcinoma
  • Small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma
  • Sarcomatoid carcinoma
  • Transitional cell carcinoma
  • Prostate sarcoma
  • Collecting duct carcinoma
  • Mucinous adenocarcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma

The Importance of Early Detection

The five-year relative survival rate for prostate cancer is particularly high compared to other cancers, but that rate is highest for prostate cancers that are detected and treated in their earliest stages.

If the cancer is localized (has not spread outside the prostate) or regional (has spread only to nearby structures or lymph nodes), the 5-year survival rate is greater than 99%. However, if prostate cancer is distant (has spread to parts of the body further from the prostate), this number drops to 32%.

For this reason, early detection is essential for the best outcomes. Patients with any of the risk factors outlined above or who are experiencing the symptoms of prostate cancer should contact their doctors for evaluation.

Treatment for Prostate Cancer at RCCA

The team of experienced, compassionate medical oncologists at RCCA offers multiple prostate cancer treatments. Considering the individual’s overall health, cancer stage, and other factors, RCCA medical oncologists develop a personalized treatment plan for each patient. Treatment options include:

Schedule an Appointment at RCCA

Patients can receive cutting-edge therapies and comprehensive, compassionate care from the committed team of medical oncologists and hematologists at Regional Cancer Care Associates. With 22 community-based locations in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and throughout the Washington, D.C. area, RCCA offers outstanding care close to home. Contact RCCA to learn more about prostate cancer treatment and other oncology services, or request an appointment today.

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For more information or to schedule an appointment,
call 844-346-7222. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.


Regional Cancer Care Associates is one of fewer than 200 medical practices in the country selected to participate in the Oncology Care Model (OCM); a recent Medicare initiative aimed at improving care coordination and access to and quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries undergoing chemotherapy treatment.