No matter the medical condition, it is usually safe to assume that certain people are more susceptible to contracting or developing it. With the common cold, for instance, children and older people are at increased risk, whereas genetics and body weight are risk factors for asthma.

When it comes to cancer, there are a number of different risk factors that can contribute to the development of the disease, including factors beyond our control, such as a family history of the cancer, to factors we can control, like smoking cigarettes. This applies to prostate cancer as well, and knowing whether you are at increased risk of developing the disease can help you avoid a delayed diagnosis.

Of all risk factors, age is the most pivotal. Prostate cancer is generally rare in men younger than 45. According to the American Cancer Society, two out of three prostate cancer incidences occur in men over 65. As men age, the prostate gland gradually increases in size, largely due to hormonal complications. In fact, it enlarges so slowly that a cancer of the prostate might not be noticed until urination problems begin to appear due to the gland restricting the flow of urine from the bladder to the urethra.

Other important prostate cancer risk factors include:

• Race -- For reasons yet to be identified, African American men show a much higher tendency to develop prostate cancer, and they are more likely than men of other races to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in an advanced stage.

• Geography -- certain areas of the world, such as North America, show higher rates of prostate cancer than other areas.

• Family history -- Genetic factors are one of the most common contributors to risk of prostate cancer. If your father or brother has a history of prostate cancer, you may be twice as susceptible of developing the disease as someone without a history of the cancer. Certain inherited genes have also been identified as possible risk factors for prostate cancer.

• Diet -- What men eat may play a role in the development of prostate cancer, as men with diets high in red meat or high-fat dairy products showed increased tendency of having the disease. Obesity has been associated with an increased risk of developing aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

• Studies have linked other risk factors with prostate cancer, such as inflammation of the prostate, vasectomies and infections.

It also should be noted that there are non-cancerous lesions which, if discovered on the prostate, may lead to an increased risk of cancer one day developing. These are called prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN) and atypical small acinar proliferation (ASAP).