Understanding the Risk of Prostate Cancer and How it is Diagnosed

Did you know it’s National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month? What better way to celebrate than to educate yourself about the risks and management of this disease?  The fact of the matter is, one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and one in thirty-nine will die from the disease. [1] This month, let’s take the opportunity to learn a bit more about this widespread cancer.

Are You Genetically at a Higher Risk of Developing Prostate Cancer?

While prostate cancer can occur in any male, some members of the population are more susceptible than others. If a man’s father or brother has a previous prostate cancer diagnosis, his risk factor more than doubles. In fact, his risk is even higher if he has several relatives with prostate cancer, particularly if they were diagnosed at a young age. [2]

In addition to family history, ethnicity can also contribute to one’s prostate cancer risk factor. The disease occurs most prevalently in African-American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry. It occurs least often in Asian-American men. [2] Though the reason behind these ethnic differences is unclear, it is important to note that all men have an inherent risk and should therefore be vigilant.

How is Prostate Cancer Diagnosed?

Prostate cancer is evaluated through regular checkups with your physician, generally by PSA screening and/or digital rectal examination.  This may be followed with more specific tests, including a prostate biopsy. Prostate cancers are not all the same, with some being more dangerous than others. The Gleason score grades prostate cancer, with a maximum value of ten.  A higher score indicates a higher risk. To arrive at a Gleason score, a pathologist examines ten to twenty tissue samples extracted during a prostate biopsy through the rectum. Low-grade prostate cancer – a six or lower on the Gleason score – is low risk and does not always require treatment. In these cases, it is often recommended that the patient undergoes active surveillance to monitor for higher grade disease or the cancer spreading. Patients with a Gleason score of seven or higher are typically at higher risk and more immediate evaluation and treatment is often recommended.

Prior to receiving a prostate biopsy, most patients undergo less invasive testing. Your doctor may order a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test which can help indicate if a biopsy is needed. Unfortunately, a high PSA test can be caused by a number of less serious conditions such as a benign enlargement of the prostate or prostate infection. This can sometimes lead to unnecessary biopsies or procedures.

The 4Kscore is a simple blood test that can help your doctor determine your risk for high grade, aggressive prostate cancer. By using the 4Kscore after an abnormal PSA test, doctors can better identify those men who are at a higher risk, and would benefit from further evaluations such as prostate biopsy, and avoid unnecessary procedures in men with a low risk.

Is it Time to be Screened for Prostate Cancer?

When was the last time you were screened for prostate cancer? Is it time to have a screening? According to the American Cancer Society the following ages are appropriate to discuss screening with your doctor: [3]

Men at average risk, who are expected to live for 10 or more years can wait until the age of 50 to begin screenings.

Men at high risk of developing the disease, either from family history or heritage, should begin screening at age 45.

Men at very high risk of developing the disease, meaning more than one of their first degree relatives (father, brother, or son) was diagnosed with prostate cancer at a young age should begin screenings at the age of 40.


If any of the above describes you, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your doctor. What better time to begin annual screenings than during National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month?  Contact your physician today or find a laboratory in your area to undergo a PSA and, if indicated, a 4Kscore test.

Ready to do your part to spread the word about Prostate Cancer Awareness Month? Share some lifesaving statistics!

If a man’s father or brother is diagnosed with prostate cancer, his risk factor more than doubles. Early diagnosis saves lives! Click to tweet

Did you know 4Kscore can help predict a man’s risk of prostate cancer metastases over the next 10 years? Click to tweet

If you are interested in learning more about prostate health throughout the year, follow our blog and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Join in the conversation!


  • American Cancer Society. Key statistics for prostate cancer. Available at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-key-statistics (Accessed August 17, 2016).
  • American Cancer Society. Prostate cancer risk factors. Available at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-risk-factors (Accessed August 17, 2016).
  • American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society recommendations for prostate cancer early detection. Available at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/moreinformation/prostatecancerearlydetection/prostate-cancer-early-detection-acs-recommendations (Accessed August 17, 2016).