Prostate cancer

Updated 21 February 2018

Causes of prostate cancer

There is no single cause of prostate cancer. As with most cancers defects in the DNA of the cell are central to the development of prostate cancer.

Nobody is completely certain what causes prostate cancer. Studies have revealed certain patterns that point to risk factors for prostate cancer:

Inherited factor

Prostate cancer seems to run in certain families, so there is definitely an inherited risk factor. Men with a family history of the disease tend to develop prostate cancer earlier than other men do.

Hormonal link

As with breast cancer, it is thought that there is a hormonal link in the development of prostate cancer. Fats stimulate hormone production, and the one lifestyle-related cause that most researchers agree on is that diet high in animal fats can stimulate the production of testosterone. Naturally high testosterone levels are also thought to trigger prostate cancer.

Dietary factors

Countries in which the staple diet includes large quantities of dairy and meat products have a far higher prevalence of prostate cancer than countries where people eat large quantities of fish, rice, vegetables and soybean products.

Chemical exposure

Men who are exposed to the metal cadmium in their workplaces (this includes workers who make batteries, welders, and rubber workers) also have a higher incidence of this cancer.

Age definitely also plays a role. Very few men below forty have prostate cancer, whereas autopsies have revealed that as many as 70% of men aged 80 years and older have some form of prostate cancer. It is often not the cause of death, as this is a very slow-growing cancer. Many men are unaware that they have it.


Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are both risk factors. Smokers are also at a higher risk as are people whose calcium intake is high.

There does not seem to be any link between prostate cancer and a healthy sex life. Other factors which also do not play a role are vasectomies, circumcision, infertility, masturbation and prostate infections.

While you cannot choose your genetic inheritance, you can choose to live a healthy lifestyle, thereby reducing your chances of getting prostate cancer.

Read more:
What is prostate cancer?
Symptoms of prostate cancer
Diagnosing prostate cancer

Sources:; WebMD; Cancer Research UK


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