How common is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is now the most common cancer in men in the UK.  Approximately 35,000 men are diagnosed each year.


Prostate cancer is relatively rare in men under 50, and nearly 2 out of 3 cases are in men aged 70 and over.  Age is the most significant risk factor of all for prostate cancer.  The older you are, the
greater the risk, in fact some studies, based on post mortem findings, estimate that all men would have prostate cancer if they lived to over a hundred.

No one can give you an exact figure of risk.  In the UK, about 73 men out of every 1,000 get prostate cancer at some point in their lives.  That is an average risk of 1 in 14, or 7%.  However, remember, this is ‘lifetime risk’.

73 is all the men in the thousand who got prostate cancer at any age, up to 85 or more.  Your risk at any single point in your life will be much lower than 1 in 14.

Your risk increases with age, and your risk at age 50 or 60 will be lower than it is at 75.

A family history of prostate cancer

Generally speaking, if you have a relative diagnosed with prostate cancer you are at twice the risk of getting the disease yourself, compared to the average man.  If you have a brother with prostate cancer, your risk is higher, at just under 3 times the average risk.

The age that your relative is diagnosed with prostate cancer is also a factor.  If they were diagnosed before the age of 60, this increases your risk by about 4 times the average.  And if you have more than one first degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer (at any age) your risk is also about 4 times the average. A first degree relative means father, brother or son.

If your relative was young when diagnosed, or if you have several relatives with prostate cancer, these could be signs that there is a faulty gene running in the family.  The younger the age at diagnosis, the more likely it is that a faulty gene is at work.

Remember – for there to be a gene at work, the affected relatives have to come from the same side of your family (your mother’s side or your father’s side).

Scientists are working on identifying the genes that may increase the risk of prostate cancer.  In the future they may develop a test to see if men are carrying any of these genes.

It is important to remember that statistics are always a generalisation.  There are likely to be specific factors at work for some men, which increase their risk.

A strong family history of breast cancer

A strong family history of breast cancer may also increase your risk of prostate cancer, particularly if you have a close relative diagnosed under the age of 40.  This is because the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes associated with a higher risk of breast cancers, are also linked to a higher risk of prostate cancer.  If you carry the BRCA2 gene, you have 7 times the risk of getting prostate cancer before you are 65, when compared with the average man under 65.  Once you are over 65, you have 4.5 times the risk of prostate cancer if you carry this gene, when compared to the average man over 65.

Some studies have found an increased risk of prostate cancer among men who’ve had bowel cancer.  So there may be a common faulty gene for both these types of cancer.

African ancestry

Prostate cancer is more common in black men and mixed race men than it is in white or Asian men.  In Britain, Indian and Pakistani men have a higher risk than white men, but Chinese and Bangladeshi men have a lower risk.  This is probably due to a mixture of inherited genes and environmental factors but we don’t really know the full story as yet.  For more information please contact Cancer Black Care.

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