Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH) - Is it Dangerous?

Is BPH dangerous?. Tetra Images - Rob Lewine/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Is BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy) dangerous? Could it cause cancer? Since BPH is very common - affecting half of men who live long enough - this is a very important question.

What is BPH?

BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), something commonly called an "enlarged prostate," is an extremely common condition that afflicts a large percentage of older men, and only gets more common with age.

Can BPH Cause Prostate Cancer?

While BPH is not prostate cancer and cannot spread to other parts of the body like cancer can, it is still potentially dangerous.

Differentiating BPH and Prostate Cancer

Because many people are diagnosed with prostate cancer based on symptoms, especially now when there is controversy over the use of the PSA lab test to diagnose prostate cancer, it's important to know what these symptoms are. Unfortunately, the symptoms of BPH and prostate cancer can be very similar with problems such as urinating quite often, a need to urinate at night, and other symptoms such as difficulty starting the stream of urine and dribbling. On exam, your doctor may note some differences as BPH tend to occur in the lateral lobes of the prostate and feel boggy in texture, whereas prostate cancer often occurs in the central region of the prostate and feels nodular and firm. Check out this comparison of bph and prostate cancer.

What are Some Complications of BPH?

The prostate is situated just below the bladder and surrounds the beginning of the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body).

Because it occupies this important location, when the prostate enlarges, it can block the flow of urine from the bladder.

BPH can become dangerous when the bladder is completely (or nearly completely) blocked. If urine is impeded from exiting the body, pressure will build up behind the bladder and then will transferred to the kidneys.

Severe kidney damage can then result. Ultimately, if kidney damage is severe enough, the man could die from the condition. Some complications of BPH include:

When to Call Your Doctor

It's important to get any new or worsening urinary symptoms checked out by your doctor. BPH and prostate cancer are just two of the possible causes of these symptoms.

Learn more about how BPH is diagnosed and how prostate cancer is diagnosed. Thankfully methods such as surgery for BPH and medications for BPH can make a big difference for men as they grow older. If you and your doctor have ordered a PSA test, learn what the results may mean, as the test gives frequent "false positive" results.


Mobley, D., Feibus, A., and N. Baum. Benign prostatic hyperplasia and urinary symptoms: Evaluation and treatment. Postgraduate Medicine 127(3):301-7.

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