Can Prostate Cancer Be Prevented?

Some risk factors you can’t control … but others you can.

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“People have been very interested in trying to prevent prostate cancer,” says William H. Oh, MD, chief of hematology and oncology at Mount Sinai Health System. “But there’s nothing that we know of that definitely prevents prostate cancer.” Learn more about prostate cancer here

Even though there’s no surefire way to prevent prostate cancer, there may be things you can do to lower your risk. While many risk factors may be out of your control, there are some things you do have control over: Living a healthy lifestyle and talking to your doctor about your risk. 

Prostate Cancer Risk Factors You Can’t Control

There are many risk factors that are out of your control (but still important to be aware of), such as: 

  • Age: Prostate cancer most commonly occurs in men older than 50, but it can still happen in younger men. About 6 in 10 prostate cancers are found in men older than 65, according to the American Cancer Society. 

  • Ethnicity: Prostate cancer is more common in African-American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races. 

  • Geography: Prostate cancer is more common in certain parts of the world, specifically North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and on Caribbean islands. The reason for this is not clear, but it could be due to lifestyle differences (e.g., diet) and screening accessibility. 

  • Family history: Men who have a father or brother with prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease. 

  • Inherited gene changes: Certain gene changes, such as inherited mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, may increase a man’s risk for prostate cancer. 

Having risk factors for prostate cancer does not mean you will get it. Knowing your risk factors, however, can help you and your doctor assess your risk and determine a plan of action to lower your chances of developing the disease. 

Prostate Cancer Risk Factors You Can Control

Your risk for developing prostate cancer may also be affected by factors that you can control, such as your lifestyle. The effects of lifestyle changes on prostate cancer risk are not clear, but there may be things you can do that might lower your risk. 

“In general, my advice to my patients is to live a very healthy lifestyle. The most important thing is to eat a heart-healthy diet and exercise,” says Dr. Oh. 

Check out these easy heart-healthy diet tweaks

Prostate Cancer Screening

Prostate cancer can often be found before symptoms start by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in a man’s blood. “PSA screening is very controversial, but most recently men between the ages of 50 and 70 are recommended to discuss screening with their primary care doctors or urologists,” says Dr. Oh. 

Another way to find prostate cancer is the digital rectal exam (DRE), in which the doctor puts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland. 

Men thinking about getting screened for prostate cancer should make informed decisions based on the available information, discussion with their doctor, and their own views on the possible benefits, risks, and limits of prostate cancer screening.

“I’ve been an oncologist in this field for 20 years, and I’ve seen a tremendous amount of change in the field—a lot of advancement, in both the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer,” says Dr. Oh. “So I’m really optimistic that in the future, one day, we will actually figure out how to prevent this disease.”