A cancer DNA phenotype, identical to the DNA structure of tumors, has been identified in the prostate glands of certain healthy men over 55 years of age. We now show that the same DNA signature exists in normal tissues adjacent to tumors. This finding implies that the phenotype is maintained in normal prostate cells from its inception through tumor development. The presence of the phenotype in tumors, adjacent normal cells, and in the normal prostate cells of certain older men suggests that it is a potentially critical factor in tumor development and may serve as an early biomarker for cancer risk assessment. Intervention to inhibit the development of the phenotype in healthy men, or to eliminate it once formed, may suppress or even prevent tumor formation.