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What are the risk factors?

The causes of prostate cancer are unknown, but factors that can increase the risk include:

  • older age – prostate cancer is most commonly diagnosed in people aged 60–79
  • family history of prostate cancer – if your father or brother has had prostate cancer before the age of 60, your risk will be twice that of others
  • strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, particularly BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.

While prostate cancer is less common if you are under 50, people aged 40–55 are at particular risk of developing prostate cancer later in life if their prostate specific antigen (PSA) test results are above the 95th percentile. This means their PSA levels are higher than 95% of other people in the same age range.

Inherited prostate cancer gene

You may have an inherited gene that increases your risk of prostate cancer if you have:

  • several relatives on the same side of the family (either your mother’s or father’s side) diagnosed with prostate, breast and/or ovarian cancers
  • a brother or father diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 60.

Ask your general practitioner (GP) whether you and others in your family need PSA testing. For more information, call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

Screening tests

Cancer screening is testing to look for cancer in people who don’t have any symptoms. The benefit of screening is that the cancer can be treated early. It is important that this benefit outweighs any potential harms from treatment or its side effects.

Unlike for bowel, breast and cervical cancers, there is no national screening program for prostate cancer. There remains debate among doctors regarding the pros and cons of PSA screening and whether there is an overall benefit.

Some people without any symptoms of prostate cancer do choose to have regular PSA tests. Before having a PSA test, it is important to talk to your GP about the benefits and harms in your particular circumstances.

For more information, visit psatesting.org.au.

This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed in March 2020 by the following expert content reviewers: Dr Amy Hayden, Radiation Oncologist, Westmead and Blacktown Hospitals, and Chair, Faculty of Radiation Genito-Urinary Group (FROGG), The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, NSW; Prof Shomik Sengupta, Professor of Surgery and Deputy Head, Eastern Health Clinical School, Monash University, and Visiting Urologist and Uro-Oncology Lead, Urology Department, Eastern Health, VIC; A/Prof Arun Azad, Medical Oncologist, Urological and Prostate Cancers, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Ken Bezant, Consumer; Dr Marcus Dreosti, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare, and Clinical Strategy Lead, Oncology Australia, SA; A/Prof Nat Lenzo, Nuclear Physician, Specialist in Internal Medicine, Group Clinical Director, GenesisCare Theranostics and The University of Western Australia, WA; Jessica Medd, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Department of Urology, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, and HeadwayHealth Clinical and Consulting Psychology Services, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Western Australia; Graham Rees, Consumer; Kerry Santoro, Prostate Cancer Specialist Nurse, Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, SA; A/Prof David Smith, Senior Research Fellow, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW; Matthew Starr, Consumer.