The exact causes of prostate cancer are unknown. However, research aimed at understanding how cancer cells start to grow and spread may indicate some contributing factors. These factors include:
Men over age 50 are at risk for prostate cancer and risk increases with age. As studies into aging continue, scientists may find that the aging process produces biochemical reactions that contribute to abnormal cell growth. This is an area of intense research.
If a man's father or an older sibling has had prostate cancer, he is at increased risk. Also, African American men are at increased risk.
Scientists are looking at genes that may be responsible for inherited prostate cancer. The genes under investigation are called Hereditary Prostate Cancer Genes 1 and 2 (HPC1, HPC2) and HPCX.
It is not yet known to what degree these genes are responsible for prostate cancer. It may be that genetically acquired prostate cancer develops differently than cancer from other causes, but more research into this theory is needed.
Researchers are finding that genetic flaws are responsible for many cancers. Recent research has shown that a genetic defect may keep some men from developing a certain enzyme. This enzyme could mount a defense against cells vulnerable to cancer-causing agents in the environment.
Some studies have found that a diet high in animal fat may increase a man's risk for developing prostate cancer, while a diet high in fruits and vegetables (especially tomato-based products) may decrease the risk.
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A few studies suggested that having a vasectomy (a sterilization procedure in which the tubes that transport sperm cells are cut and tied, so that a man cannot make a woman pregnant) might increase a man's risk for prostate cancer. However, most studies do not support this finding.
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An enlarged prostate (a condition called
For further information about prostate enlargement, go to Prostate Enlargement.