Introduction to Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in American men, following only skin cancer. It is estimated that one of every seven African-Americans and one in every eight Caucasians develops the disease. Although prostate cancer is most common in men over 65, it has been diagnosed in men as young as 40.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in American males and the leading cause of cancer death in males over 85. This high mortality rate may be the result of late detection, since studies show that 87 percent of men treated when their cancer is diagnosed early can expect to be alive in five years. Prostate cancer should not be confused with benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), a gradual enlargement of the prostate gland that occurs in more than half of men over 45. BPH may cause the prostate to press on the urethra and bladder neck, leading to frequent urination or interference with urinary flow. While BPH is not a malignant condition, prostate cancer is present in about 38 percent of men who undergo surgery to relieve the symptoms caused by an enlarged prostate.

Since the annual incidence of prostate cancer has risen steadily during the past 60 years, epidemiologic studies suggest that environmental factors, such as a high-fat diet, play a role. Because the incidence increases with age, sex hormones and steroid hormones may also be factors related to prostate cancer.