Prostate Cancer Rates

How Common Is Prostate Cancer?

Doctor Talking To Patient
Patrick Heagney/E+/Getty Images

Prostate cancer rates are high in men and increase with age. Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. 

What is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer develops in the prostate — a small gland that makes seminal fluid. It is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Prostate cancer usually grows over time and in the beginning usually stays within the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm.

While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer that is more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Decreased force in the stream of urine
  • Blood in the semen
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Bone pain
  • Erectile dysfunction

How Do We Know the True Prevalence of Prostate Cancer?

The only way to definitively diagnose prostate cancer is by taking some of the prostate tissue and looking at it under a microscope to determine if any cancerous cells are present.

This is mostly done with prostate biopsy when there is some reason to be concerned that prostate cancer may be present (such as an elevated PSA level, an abnormal digital rectal exam, or urinary symptoms).

In order to determine how common prostate cancer truly is, however, biopsies would have to be done on lots and lots of men -- regardless of whether they needed it or not.

This plan obviously has some serious drawbacks and will likely never be done.

Instead, prostate tissue can be analyzed after death during an autopsy. It is through autopsy studies that scientists have been able to determine the actual prevalence of prostate cancer among men of various ages.

Key Prostate Cancer Statistics

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for prostate cancer in the United States for 2015 are:

  • About 220,800 new cases of prostate cancer
  • About 27,540 deaths from prostate cancer

About 1 man in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.

Prostate cancer occurs mainly in older men. About 6 cases in 10 are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is rare before age 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer. About 1 man in 38 will die of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer can be a serious disease, but most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. In fact, more than 2.9 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today.


American Cancer Society. What are the key statistics about prostate cancer?

Delongchamps NB, Singh A, Haas GP. The role of prevalence in the diagnosis of prostate cancer. Cancer Control. 2006 Jul;13(3):158-68.

Hankey BF, Feuer EJ, Clegg LX, et al. Cancer surveillance series: interpreting trends in prostate cancer--part I: Evidence of the effects of screening in recent prostate cancer incidence, mortality, and survival rates. J Natl Cancer Inst 1999 Jun 16;91(12):1017-24.

Mayo Clinic. Prostate Cancer.

Continue Reading