Northwestern Memorial Hospital
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Chicago, IL 60611-2908

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Prostate cancer, which is cancer of the small gland that produces seminal fluid, is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. Approximately 1 out of 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. It is estimated that nearly 190,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in men.

Risk Factors

While it is not completely understood why some men develop prostate cancer and others do not, there are some risk factors that have been determined in studies, including:

  • Age over 65: age is the primary risk factor for prostate cancer, as the chance of getting it increases as a man ages; only rarely do men under 45 years of age get it.
  • Family history: the risk for getting prostate cancer is greater if a close relative had it.
  • Race: African American men are likelier than white or Hispanic/Latino men. Prostate cancer is less common among Asian and Native American men.
  • Changes to the prostate: a type of abnormal cell known as high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) may have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Genetic mutation: a change to particular genes in regions of the genome may increase likelihood of prostate cancer. Changes in specific genes, such asBRCA1 and BRCA2 also show an increased risk.

A risk factor is just that—it means an increased risk for developing prostate cancer—most men with risk factors may never develop prostate cancer.

Other factors, such as obesity, smoking, alcohol use, sexually transmitted diseases, sedentary habits, high-fat diets, and other lifestyle factors are being studied to determine if there is a relationship to prostate cancer. Some studies indicate that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may have a lower risk.

Learn more about risk factors at > >

Signs & Symptoms

A man with prostate cancer may be without symptoms (asymptomatic), or he may have these common symptoms:

  • Urinary problems
    • Inability to pass urine
    • Difficulty starting or stopping flow of urine
    • Having to urinate often, particularly at night
    • Weak urine flow
    • Sporadic urine flow (starting and stopping)
    • Pain or burning during urination
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Frequent pain in lower back, upper thighs, or hips

Diagnosis & Testing


Though prostate cancer usually occurs in older men, it can affect men at any age. The American Cancer Society recommends that men with average risk begin getting screened for prostate cancer at the age of 50. Men who are at higher risk may need to follow a different screening schedule, but that recommended schedule differs among doctors. If you have a family history of prostate cancer or are an African American, speak with your doctor about when you should begin prostate screening.

Learn more about your diagnosis at > >


If you have been told you may have or do have prostate cancer, and you’d like to make a first-time appointment with a Northwestern Memorial urologist or oncologist, please call our Physician Referral Department at 1-877-926-4664 orrequest an appointment online.

*Source: Northwestern Memorial Hospital

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