Prostate cancer

Updated 09 September 2014

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers, affecting approximately 17% of men at some point during their lives.


Prostate cancer is a very slow-growing cancer and many men who die from other causes are found to have had prostate cancer without being aware of it.

By far the most common type of prostate cancer is the one that is called adenocarcinoma. Nearly all prostate cancers originate in the gland cells of the prostate. Cancer starts when cells in a particular area of the body start to grow out of control. These cancer cells don’t die, like normal cells do, but continue to grow and form new, abnormal cells.

If you have a father or a brother who has had prostate cancer, you are two to three times more likely to get it yourself. The incidence of prostate cancer is rising, but because of greater awareness of this type of cancer and more regular screening, the mortality rate is dropping. If it is diagnosed at an early stage, it is curable.

Early prostate cancer has no symptoms, so many men are simply unaware of the fact that they have it. This is why regular screening is so important. The big danger comes in when prostate cancer cells spread into the rest of the body, for instance into the bones or the lungs or the lymph nodes. Once that has happened, it is difficult to treat effectively.

Prostate cancer mostly affects men over the age of 65, and seldom occurs in men below the age of 40. In fact, fewer than one percent of the cases are found in men below the age of 50.

In 2012, more than 1.1million cases were recorded worldwide. This accounted for eight percent of all new cancers in the world during that year.

About two-thirds of all prostate cancer cases occur in the more developed countries of the world.

One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some time during their lives. Every year 4000 men are diagnosed with this in SA, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of South Africa.

Read more:
Symptoms of prostate cancer
Causes of prostate cancer
Diagnosing prostate cancer

Sources: Health24;; WebMD;;; World Cancer Research Fund International



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