What Causes Prostate Cancer?

Cancer of the prostate develops when changes (mutations) occur in our cellular structure. These changes include inheriting certain genetic information from our parents, which may put us at greater risk of developing this disease, or suffering alterations in our cells after we are born (acquired as opposed to inherited factors). An example of the latter is exposure to toxic chemicals such as those found in cadmium.

Although there are no known causes of prostate cancer, risk factors may play a significant role. One such risk factor is a diet high in animal fats which leads to greater production of the male hormone testosterone. This hormone, medical researchers believe, plays a role in prostate cancer because testosterone stimulates the growth of prostate cells. Obesity is also considered a risk factor.

Moderate to heavy alcohol intake or 22 to 56 drinks a week increases the risk of developing the disease.

It is not known if smoking cigarettes puts men at greater risk of developing the disease. However, men who smoke who then develop prostate cancer have more severe cases than men who do not smoke and develop the disease.

Exposure to certain metals and chemicals such as cadmium, dimethylformamide and acrylonitrite, may be risk factors.

Some studies have suggested that men who have an active sexual life are at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. However, most studies show that there is no connection.

Medical researchers are still studying whether men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland, are at increased risk of developing prostate cancer. To date, there is no evidence to suggest that BPH increases a man’s risk.

Some studies have suggested a link between prostate cancer and infections of the prostate, including bacterial prostatitis and infections caused by herpesvirus, human papillomavirus and cytomegalovirus. However a definitive link has not been determined.

No link has been found between having a vasectomy and the risk of developing prostate cancer.