How Does Prostate Cancer Start?

July 12, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Mark Perlmutter, M.D.

About one man in eight will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during his life. It’s the most common cancer among men after skin cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in men after lung cancer.

These numbers may seem scary, but the good news is it can often be treated successfully.

“While prostate cancer is very common, and while there are people who pass away from it, the therapies and treatments we have are phenomenal for prostate cancer,” says Mark Perlmutter, M.D., FACS, medical director of urologic oncologyJersey Shore University Medical Center and Ocean Medical Center.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you might wonder why or what caused it. Unfortunately, this is something researchers and doctors are still trying to understand.

Genetic Factors for Prostate Cancer

“We don’t know for sure how prostate cancer starts. But there are a variety of genetic components that we’re learning about more and more every year,” says Dr. Perlmutter. “We now know there’s a very large association between the BRCA genes and prostate cancer. We’ve known that in regards to breast cancer for a long time, but we now more fully appreciate and understand its link with prostate cancer.”

Everyone has two copies of these BRCA genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2. But you have an increased risk of developing some cancers—such as prostate—if you have a mutation in these genes.

What Puts You at Increased Risk?

Other factors that may increase your risk of developing prostate cancer include:

Age. Your risk of prostate cancer increases as you age. It’s most common after age 50, with about six in 10 cases found in men older than age 65.

Race. African-American men are ata greater risk of prostate cancer than men of other races. As well, it affects African-American men at a younger age and is often more aggressive.

Family history. If you have a blood relative with prostate cancer, your risk increases. There are also other cancers that may be genetically related, and you may have an increased risk if you have a family history of breast or pancreatic cancer.

Screening for Prostate Cancer

While there is no known way to prevent prostate cancer, you should discuss the pros and cons of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening with your doctor. PSA, a protein produced by cells in the prostate gland, may be elevated in men with prostate cancer. Men with a higher risk for prostate cancer should consider PSA testing at age 40, while all men should consider it once they reach 45.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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