Prostate cancer is a deadly disease which afflicts around 1 in 8 men at some point during their lifetime. While the science surrounding prostate cancer still has a long way to go before we understand exactly what causes this malady, it has been linked with certain factors which increase the likelihood that a person will contract it.

One of these is family history. That means that prostate cancer can be hereditary and if a close family member of yours has been diagnosed with the disease in the past, the chances that you will also contract it are significantly increased.

By the numbers

Between 5% and 10% of all diagnosed cases of prostate cancer are believed to be hereditary, which indicates that there is a risk of contracting the disease if it runs in the family. In fact, family history is the strongest indicator that an individual may be diagnosed with it at some point in their life.

If you have a father, brother or other close blood relative who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the chances that you will also develop it later in life are doubled. If two close relatives are affected by the disease, the likelihood that you will contract it increases fivefold.

Other primary risk factors

While family history is the biggest risk factor associated with prostate cancer, it’s not the only one. Age is another big determinant, since the disease generally only afflicts men over 50 years of age. The most common age group for positive diagnoses is between 65 and 69 years. Men under 50 can also contract the disease, but it’s highly unlikely to happen.

The final risk factor is ethnicity. In particular, black men are susceptible to contracting prostate cancer, with around 1 in 4 back men likely to be diagnosed with it over the course of their lifetime. For men of mixed black ethnicity, more research needs to be done to fully understand the risks, but right now the understanding is that mixed race men are more likely to suffer from the disease than other ethnic groups.

Managing the risk

As mentioned above, more research is required into the causes of prostate cancer before we can fully understand how to prevent it. What we do know is that a high PSA level – or prostate-specific antigen level – is a key indicator that a person may be suffering from the disease. PSA levels can easily be identified via a simple blood test.

For that reason, anyone suffering from suspected symptoms of prostate cancer – such as difficulty urinating, blood in the urine and stool or pain and difficulty when sitting down – should ask their doctor for a PSA blood test as soon as possible. That is especially applicable to those with a family history of prostate cancer, men over 50 years of age or men of Black ethnicity. As with all cancers, it’s imperative that the disease is discovered as soon as possible to allow for an appropriate course of treatment to be implemented.

Cite this article as:
Burhan Ahmed, MD, "Is Prostate Cancer Hereditary?," in Medicalopedia, March 12, 2021, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/9610/is-prostate-cancer-hereditary/].