Prostate Cancer

Ideas about causes of prostate cancer

Although the causes of prostate cancer are unknown some factors seem to be associated with a slight increase in the likelihood of developing the disease. These are;

  • age (the disease is common among elderly men),
  • ethnic group (for example black African and black Caribbean men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than white men, and Asian men have a lower risk of developing it),
  • having relatives who have had prostate cancer, and
  • eating a diet high in animal fat, protein or calcium.

Some men we interviewed saw prostate cancer as just part of 'old age' or 'just one of those things' although there may have been some confusion with other more common prostate problems such as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). Men we interviewed suggested a variety of possible causes and often made the point that more than one factor is probably involved. Many believed that genetic factors were important. One man who thought that prostate cancer was inherited from family members, also felt that he was somehow responsible for any disease he had.

Elements of diet, especially dairy produce and meat, were often mentioned as a possible cause of prostate cancer and so was 'stress'. Other ideas about the causes of prostate cancer included vigorous sports or high levels of sexual activity, vasectomies*, exposure to chemicals, and electromagnetic emissions.

* There have been a number of studies about whether having a vasectomy increases the risk of developing prostate cancer. Most doctors believe that having a vasectomy has no effect on the risk of prostate cancer or that, if it does increase the risk, the effect of this is quite small. For more information on these studies see NHS Choices - Vasectomy-associated prostate cancer risk 'small' July 2014.

Last reviewed July 2017.

Last updated July 2017.


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