Prostate Cancer

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What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is cancer of prostate gland. The prostate gland is a walnut-sized gland present only in men found in the pelvis, wrapped around the urethra (the tube through which urine exits the body). The prostate gland secretes part of the liquid portion of the semen, or seminal fluid, which carries sperm made by the testes. The fluid is essential to reproduction.

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer that develops in men other than skin cancers, and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men. In 2013 the American Cancer Society estimated over 238,000 men were newly diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 29,000 men died from the disease -- though many of them had lived with the disease for years prior to their deaths.

Prostate cancer is comprised nearly always of adenocarcinoma cells -- cells which arise from glandular tissue. Cancer cells are named according to the organ in which they originate no matter where in the body we find such cells.

What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?

Certain risk factors may predispose a person to prostate cancer. These include:

  • Age: 60% of cases of prostate cancer arise in men over 65 years of age. The disease is rare in men under 40.
  • Race or ethnicity: African-American men and Jamaican men of African ancestry are diagnosed with prostate cancer more often than are men of other races and ethnicities. Asian and Hispanic men are less likely to develop prostate cancer than are non-Hispanic white males.
  • Family history: Prostate cancer can run in families. A man whose father or brother has or had prostate cancer is twice as likely to develop the disease. If several family members have had prostate cancer, and particularly if it was found at a young age in those relatives, the risk may be even higher.
  • Nationality: Prostate cancer is more common in North America, Europe (especially northwestern countries in Europe), the Caribbean, and Australia. It is less common in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America. Multiple factors, such as diet and lifestyle, may account for this.
  • Genetic factors: Mutations in a portion of the DNA called the BRCA2 gene can increase a man's risk of getting prostate cancer. This same mutation in female family members may increase their risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. However, very few cases of prostate cancer can be directly attributed to presently identifiable genetic changes.
  • Other factors: Diets high in red meats and fatty foods and low in fruits and vegetables appear to be associated with a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Obesity is also linked to a higher risk of the disease.

Smoking, a history of sexually transmitted diseases, a history of prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), and a history of vasectomy have NOT been proven to play a role in causing prostate cancer.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/4/2014

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Prostate Cancer - Symptoms Question: The symptoms of prostate cancer can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?
Prostate Cancer - Treatment Question: What was the treatment for your prostate cancer?
Prostate Cancer - Evaluation and Diagnosis Question: How was your prostate cancer diagnosed?
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood tests and  Digital Rectal Exams (DRE) are essential for prostate health.

Surviving Prostate Cancer

One Patient's Story

Benjamin Miller* was shocked to learn he had prostate cancer.

"I had absolutely no family history of prostate cancer," Miller says. "I was very active, had no symptoms, and had an excellent diet."

Miller has since spent a great deal of time over the past five years mentoring men who have been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, and although he generally avoids suggesting one treatment option over another, he spends even more time answering the questions he says that doctors won't answer.