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The Role of Family History in Prostate Cancer Risk

What Do We Know About How Family History Changes Your Risk of Prostate Cancer?


Updated March 24, 2011

It has long been known that prostate cancer has a strong genetic component. In other words, it can “run in families.” So what do we know about the role that family history may play in prostate cancer?

Family History Is a Major Risk Factor for Prostate Cancer

Studies have found that a strong history of prostate cancer significantly increases your chances of developing the disease yourself. Furthermore, the more closely related to you the prostate cancer patients in your family are, the higher your risk.

Close Relatives With Prostate Cancer Mean a Higher Risk

Relatives that are only one step away from you in relatedness (such as your father, your brother, or your son) are known as first-degree relatives. Prostate cancer in first-degree relatives means an even higher risk of prostate cancer for you. Some very large studies have shown that if you have a first-degree relative with prostate cancer, then your risk of developing prostate cancer is approximately two and a half times as high as someone who has no family history.

Close Relatives Who Are Diagnosed at an Early Age Mean an Even Higher Risk

Additionally, the younger your relatives are when they develop prostate cancer, the higher your risk. If you have a first-degree relative who was diagnosed before the age of 65, then your risk increases to over three times that of someone with no family history.

More Than One Close Relative Means Even Higher Risk

If two or more first-degree relatives are diagnosed at any age, then your risk of prostate cancer increases to over five times that of someone with no family history.

Family History Is a Major Risk Factor Regardless of Your Race

Studies have shown that whether men are Caucasian, African American, or Asian, family history plays a significant role in the likelihood of developing prostate cancer.


Hemminki K, Czene K: Age specific and attributable risks of familial prostate carcinoma from the family-cancer database. Cancer 95 (6): 1346-53, 2002.

Whittemore AS, Wu AH, Kolonel LN, et al.: Family history and prostate cancer risk in black, white, and Asian men in the United States and Canada. Am J Epidemiol 141 (8): 732-40, 1995.

Zeegers MP, Jellema A, Ostrer H: Empiric risk of prostate carcinoma for relatives of patients with prostate carcinoma: a meta-analysis. Cancer 97 (8): 1894-903, 2003.

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