Overview of Prostate Cancer

Adenocarcinoma of the prostate is the clinical term for a cancerous tumor on the prostate gland. As prostate cancer grows, it may spread to the interior of the gland, to tissues near the prostate, to sac-like structures attached to the prostate (seminal vesicles), and to distant parts of the body (e.g., bones, liver, lungs). Prostate cancer confined to the gland often is treated successfully.

Prostate Anatomy

The prostate gland is located in the pelvis, below the bladder, above the urethral sphincter and the penis, and in front of the rectum in men. It is made up of glandular tissue and muscle fibers that surround a portion of the urethra. The gland is covered by a membrane (called the prostate capsule) that produces prostate-specific antigen.

Incidence and Prevalence of Prostate Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men in the United States, other than skin cancer. About 220,800 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year and about 27,540 men die from the disease. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, exceeded only by lung cancer.

Prostate cancer occurs in 1 out of 6 men. Reports of diagnosed cases have risen rapidly in recent years and mortality rates are declining, which may be due to increased screening.

African American men have the highest incidence of prostate cancer, and Asian and Native American men have the lowest incidence. Rates for Asian and African men increase sharply when they emigrate to the United States, suggesting an environmental connection (e.g., high-fat diet, smoking).

The risk for developing prostate cancer rises significantly with age, and 60 percent of newly diagnosed cases occur in men over the age of 70.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 09 Jun 1998

Last Modified: 01 Oct 2015