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As men get older, they may become more concerned about their risks of prostate cancer. After all, prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer among men in the United States, with about 230,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Your family history, age, and race are the most common risk factors for the disease, but recent research has unearthed some other more unusual links as well. Read on for six strange signs that you may be at risk for prostate cancer.
2 / 7 Prostate Cancer Risk No. 1: Finger Length
You don’t have to be a palm reader to see the future in your hands. According to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer, the relative length of your fingers could point to your prostate cancer risk. Researchers studied nearly 5,000 men — some with prostate cancer, some without — and discovered that those who had an index finger that was longer than their ring finger were 33 percent less likely to have prostate cancer than men with an index finger that was the same length or shorter than their ring finger. The researchers claim this has something to do with hormone levels at birth: The more testosterone a baby is exposed to in the womb, the shorter his index finger will be later in life. Don’t think of your hands as the hands of fate, though. Experts say finger length isn’t a symptom or guarantee of prostate cancer but rather an alert that men should be evaluated for their overall prostate cancer risk factors, particularly as they age.
3 / 7 Prostate Cancer Risk No. 2: Hair Loss
Early balding isn’t just an issue of vanity. According to research published in the Annals of Oncology, it may also be a sign of more serious health problems to come. Researchers studied 669 men and found that those who began losing their hair by age 20 were twice as likely to get prostate cancer later in life. The good news is that early baldness was not associated with an earlier onset of prostate cancer or with more aggressive cancer. Experts don’t know for sure what the connection is, but some suspect it’s related to the male hormones known as androgens (such as testosterone), which can inhibit hair growth while also triggering abnormal expansion of prostate cells.
4 / 7 Prostate Cancer Risk No. 3: The Gender of Your Kids
According to an Israeli study of almost 39,000 people, men who father only daughters may be up to 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than those who father only sons. In fact, the more sons a man had, the lower his risk was. But don’t blame your kids. The researchers speculate that the reason might be chromosomal: It’s possible that some men are predisposed to having daughters because of certain unique characteristics on their Y chromosome, which might also enhance their risk for developing prostate cancer.
5 / 7 Prostate Cancer Risk No. 4: Your Height
Taller people may make more money and appear more attractive to the opposite sex, but when it comes to men’s health and prostate cancer, shorter guys have the edge, at least in the case of a study done in the United Kingdom. Researchers looked at nearly 10,000 men with or without prostate cancer and found that the tallest men had a 19 percent higher risk of developing prostate cancer than the shortest men. In fact, the risk increased 6 percent for every additional 4 inches. Researchers say this is likely explained by hormones.
6 / 7 Prostate Cancer Risk No. 5: Your Sex Drive
Feeling especially passionate lately? That could be bad news for your prostate cancer risk — depending on how old you are. Researchers at Nottingham University in the United Kingdom studied the sex lives of 840 men and discovered that those who masturbated more and were more sexually active in their twenties and thirties were also more likely to develop prostate cancer. However, the opposite was true for older men: Guys who masturbated more in their fifties seemed to have a lower risk for prostate cancer. The researchers say more evidence is needed to explain the link but speculate that the role between hormones, sex drive, and prostate cancer is complex and may change with age.
7 / 7 Prostate Cancer Risk No. 6: Where You Live
Here’s some evidence for the nurture side of the nature versus nurture debate: According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, men who live in cities north of 40 degrees latitude (north of Philadelphia, Pa., Columbus, Ohio, and Provo, Utah, for example) have the highest risk for dying from prostate cancer of any men in the United States. Experts say a number of factors could be involved in this spike, including the fact that many people in norther U.S. cities get less sunlight during the winter an