Researchers are unclear on what exactly causes prostate cancer, but are on the lookout for different risk factors that may encourage abnormal cell growth that leads to cancer.
Prostate cancer is caused by changes in the genetic makeup (DNA) of a normal prostate cell. DNA is the chemical in our cells that control how our cells function. It is passed down from your parents, thus explaining why you may share several characteristics with them, but DNA affects much more than your appearance.
Some genes govern our cell’s life cycle; when to grow, to divide into new cells, and when to die:
Some genes that have been mutated and passed on from one generation to the next are called inherited genes. Cancer caused by inherited genes is called hereditary cancer. Mutated genes that have been linked to hereditary prostate cancer include the following:
There is ongoing research being conducted to find more inherited gene mutations that can cause hereditary prostate cancers.
Most gene mutations related to prostate cancer are developed during a man’s lifetime and are not passed on to children. The abnormality is caused by the original mutated cell and is called an acquired gene mutation.
Whenever a cell divides, it must create an exact copy of itself. This process is not always perfect and sometimes errors occur, resulting in faulty DNA in the newly created cell. Researchers are unsure how often these changes are caused by other factors (hormone levels, diet, etc) or just a random occurrence. In any case, the faster cells divide, the more opportunities there are for cell mutation, which ultimately leads to a larger likelihood of developing prostate cancer.
For instance, the male hormones (androgens) such as testosterone, promote prostate cell growth. High levels of androgens can lead to increased risk of prostate cancer.