June 30, 2023

Doctors' top tips to manage prostate cancer risk factors

Regardless of your age, race, or family history, you can take steps to manage your prostate cancer risk.

There are usually no symptoms in the early stages of prostate cancer, so talk with your doctor to see if regular screening is right for you.

Many factors contribute to a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. Kaiser Permanente doctors offer information on understanding and reducing those risk factors.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. It’s also one of the leading causes of cancer death among American men of all races.

About 1 in 8 men in the United States will face prostate cancer during their lifetime.

“Studies tell us that age, family history, and race strongly influence your chances of developing prostate cancer,” said Farah M. Brasfield, MD, regional chief of hematology and oncology for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.

Know your prostate cancer risk factors

As men age, their risk of developing prostate cancer increases. That’s why prostate cancer is most common in men older than 65.

“But younger men can also get prostate cancer, so it’s important to discuss testing for prostate cancer with your doctor,” said Dr. Brasfield.

Men with a family history of prostate cancer have a greater risk of developing it. Also, Black men are more likely to get prostate cancer, and are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer compared to men of other races.

Know the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer tends to be a slow-growing cancer. It often takes years for prostate cancer to cause noticeable health problems.

The first symptom is usually difficult or painful urination. Other symptoms include:

  • Urinating often, especially at night
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Difficulty having an erection or painful ejaculation
  • Deep or frequent pain in the lower back, stomach, hip, or pelvis

Men who experience any of these symptoms should see a doctor right away.

“There are usually no symptoms in the early stages of prostate cancer. Most men are unaware they have prostate cancer until it’s detected during a regular medical exam,” Dr. Brasfield said. “That’s why regular screening is so important.”

When should screening begin?

Men age 50 to 69 should talk with their doctors to see if prostate cancer screenings should be part of their regular checkups. Men in high-risk groups, including Black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer, may start getting screened at age 45.

“Since Black men tend to have more advanced prostate cancer once it’s found, we typically recommend they start getting screened at a younger age,” said Eugene Young Rhee, MD, national chair of urology for Kaiser Permanente in San Diego.

Reduce your risk of prostate cancer with a healthy lifestyle

“I encourage men, especially those in higher-risk groups, to talk about prostate cancer with their doctor during their routine annual physical,” Dr. Brasfield said. “Prostate cancer is highly treatable when caught in its earliest stages.”

Men who want to lower their risk should:

Eat nutritious food

Red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and red bell peppers, as well as cruciferous vegetables like kale and cauliflower are especially good choices. It’s important to limit red meat and processed meats, such as bacon and sausage. Get more tips from a registered dietitian about food for fighting prostate cancer.

Get to and maintain a healthy weight 

Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing more serious or even fatal prostate cancer.

Be physically active 

Men who are physically active have a slightly reduced risk of developing prostate cancer.

Learn more about healthy lifestyle programs and cancer care at Kaiser Permanente.