Risk of prostate cancer by age: Understanding the vulnerability

Several factors influence the risk of prostate cancer, including age. A few of these risk factors include a man’s ethnicity, family history, and even genetic factors that may carry an increased tendency for this disease. These risk factors mentioned are unmodifiable – a man can’t change them. Here is one more unmodifiable risk factor – a man’s age.

What does age got to do with prostate cancer risk?

Developing cancer is significantly influenced by a person’s age as the chances of being diagnosed with cancer increase as we grow older. Why? The National Cancer Institute has found that less than 25 per 100,000 Americans under age 20 get a cancer diagnosis compared to adults aged 60 and older who have a rate of 1,000 cases per 100,000 people who are diagnosed each year with cancer. 

There are several reasons why aging makes us more vulnerable to developing cancer. One reason is that aging weakens our immune system making it harder to fight off cancerous cells. This decline in rapidly progresses once a person is past the age of 60. Another reason is the growing older means our cells are deteriorating faster and are becoming less effective at regenerating. 

Then there are the decades of exposure to ultraviolet light increasing risk of skin cancer, years of smoking, exposure to chemical pollutants, and viral infections can lead to uncontrolled tumor growth.

For men diagnosed with prostate cancer, age does indeed impact a man’s chances of developing this disease as they age. The American Cancer Society says that the average age when men are diagnosed is 66. 

The impact of age on prostate cancer incidence

The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) has also found that age makes a difference in when a man is likely to get a prostate cancer diagnosis. Here is what they say as to how many men, according to their age, will be hear the words, “You have prostate cancer:”

  • 1 in 456 men under 50 
  • 1 in 54 men ages 50 to 59 
  • 1 in 19 men ages 60 to 69 
  • 1 in 11 men  ages 70 and older

What is a dangerous PSA level by age?

Screening for prostate cancer is critical for men beginning at age 40 and yearly after that. The screening involves a simple blood test at a man’s doctor’s office called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). PSA is a protein found in both semen and, in smaller amounts, in the blood. The prostate glands makes PSA. A man’s PSA level is measure in units called nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). The higher the PSA number, the higher the chance of having prostate cancer. 

Generally, men who have a PSA under 4 ng/mL do not have prostate cancer. However, around 15% of men do have the disease even if their PSA is below 4. If a man’s PSA is between 4 and 10, called borderline, have a higher risk for prostate cancer.  Men with a PSA greater than 10 ng/mL have over a 50% chance of having prostate cancer. 

These PSA values apply to any man of any age in that the higher the PSA number, the more likely they have the disease. 

What is considered normal PSA by age?

As stated above, a PSA value less than 4 ng/mL is considered normal. However, as men age, their prostate can enlarge due to a nonmalignant condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Therefore, because of the BPH possibility for an elevated PSA in older men, here is an age-adjusted scale as to what is considered a normal PSA:

  • 0-2.5 is normal for a man 40-50 years old
  • 2.5-3.5 is normal for a man 50-60 years old
  • 3.5-4.5 is normal for a man 60-70 years old
  • 4.5-5.5 is normal for a man 70-80 years old

Ways to reduce the risk of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer does not have to be a given for men, no matter what a man’s age may be. There are things men can do, of all ages, to prevent prostate cancer or at least lower their overall risk, by making healthier lifestyle changes. 

Here’s a look at steps to take for improving overall health and wellness:

  • Every day include at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. Lycopene, an antioxidant found plentiful in produce, has been found in studies to slow prostate cancer growth. 
  • Drink green tea daily. A cup of green tea may help lower prostate cancer for men at high risk. 
  • Reduce fat intake. Focus on including healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids in your meals. You can get some of those fats from fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna, and from nuts like walnuts, almonds, and seeds.
  • Reach and maintain a healthy body weight. Men who are obese are at a higher risk for aggressive prostate cancer.
  • Exercise every day. Men who exercise daily have less inflammation, a healthier immune system, and a lower risk of cancer overall. 
  • Avoid smoking and either abstain from alcohol or drink in moderation
  • Consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Most adults are deficient in vitamin D. This nutrient protects men against prostate cancer and other health conditions. Obtain vitamin D from foods like wild salmon, cod liver oil, egg yolk, milk, and shitake mushrooms. Daily sun exposure of at least 10 or more minutes is also recommended for getting vitamin D. Talk to your doctor before taking vitamin D for their recommendation. 


Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.   





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