Men's Health Month: Reducing Prostate Cancer Risk with a Healthy Lifestyle

Whether you’re a man or a woman, odds are you know someone who is currently battling or has died from prostate cancer. In fact, it’s the second most common form of cancer among American men. It is estimated there were about 250,000 new prostate cancer cases in 2021 and about 34,000 deaths last year from the disease in the USA alone.

While it can be serious, a diagnosis of prostate cancer isn’t a death sentence and 3 million men in the U.S. who have been diagnosed are still alive today. Still, the therapy may involve surgery including castration, radiation therapy, and hormonal castration — none of which sound appealing.

Prostate cancer is the most heritable cancer. There is a need to identify possible modifiable factors for men at an increased risk of prostate cancer due to genetic factors.

New Data

A brand new research study followed 12,411 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1993-2019) and the Physicians' Health Study (1983-2010). Genetic risk of prostate cancer was quantified using a polygenic risk score. A healthy lifestyle was defined by healthy weight, vigorous physical activity, not smoking, and a healthy diet. The health score included six components (one point each): body mass index <30 kg/m2, high vigorous physical activity, never smoker or having quit ≥10 yr ago, high intake of tomato-based products, high intake of fatty fish, and low intake of processed meat


During 27 yr of follow-up, 3005 overall prostate cancer and 435 lethal prostate cancer events were observed. Among men in the highest polygenic risk score for prostate cancer, adhering to a healthy lifestyle was associated with a decreased rate of lethal prostate cancer by almost 50% compared with having an unhealthy lifestyle. This translated to a lifetime risk of lethal prostate cancer of1.6% among the healthy and 5.3% among the unhealthy members of the study. Adhering to a healthy lifestyle was not associated with a decreased risk of overall prostate cancer.


 Maintaining a healthy lifestyle may provide a way to offset the genetic risk of lethal prostate cancer.  We conclude that men at a high genetic risk of prostate cancer may benefit from adhering to a healthy lifestyle although all men should follow guidelines for healthy lifestyle choices for other reasons like cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Joel Kahn

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