Determining Your Prostate Cancer Risk

Prostate cancer is usually highly treatable, but it’s important to catch it early, before it can spread from the prostate to the rest of the body. Every man should be aware of the risk factors for prostate cancer and get an assessment of his own risk profile, if possible.

Common risk factors

The most common risk factor for prostate cancer is older age. Prostate cancer typically arises in men at least 65 years old, although men with a strong family history of prostate cancer may develop it earlier.

Another major risk factor for prostate cancer is race. African-American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than men of other races. They also tend to develop the disease at younger ages. Consequently, African-American men should begin PSA screening at 45 years old instead of 50 years old.

Learn more about prostate cancer screening.

Inherited risk

If you have one or more close relatives (such as a father, son, brother, or uncle) with prostate cancer, then you have a higher risk of developing the disease yourself. Physicians recommend that men with a family history of the disease start prostate cancer screening at younger ages than men with an average risk.

Even if prostate cancer doesn’t seem to run in your family, you may still carry a higher-than-average risk. For example, some of the genetic mutations that have been linked to prostate cancer are also known to cause breast cancer. If you have a number of female relatives with breast cancer, you could have one of these mutations.

What’s my risk?

For an accurate assessment of your prostate cancer risk, it’s best to speak to your physician, especially if you have specific risk factors. There are also digital calculators and other tools you can use to evaluate your risk.

Your Disease Risk

Physicians and researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Barnes-Jewish have developed Your Disease Risk, an online tool to help you determine your risk for six chronic diseases and 12 different cancers, including prostate cancer.. Take the assessment for prostate cancer.

Remember that any information you receive through Your Disease Risk or other digital tools is only an estimate. You should share your results with your physician to get a better picture of what they mean for you.

Prompt® genetic test

The nation’s leading urologists, including Washington University urologic cancer surgeon Gerald Andriole, MD, have collaborated to develop a commercial genetic test for prostate cancer. Known as Prompt®, the test checks your genetic information for cancer-causing mutations. Prompt® is an accurate assessment that has been evaluated in clinical trials. So far, it has only been tested for use in Caucasian men. Researchers are working to make sure Prompt® will be effective in men of other races as well.

To use Prompt®, you collect a sample of DNA using a cheek swab and send it away for evaluation in a laboratory. The results will be sent to your physician, who will discuss them with you.

Keep in mind that tests like Prompt® should not be taken lightly. People can experience a range of emotions and reactions upon learning their genetic risk factors. Before taking the test, you should talk to your physician about what your results might be and what you might do with the information you receive.