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What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer develops from the growth of cancerous cells within the prostate gland. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men in the United States. Prostate cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. There were approximately 180,000 patients diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999, and about one fifth of them died of their disease. 

Although the cause of prostate cancer is still unknown, it might be associated with increased testosterone level, a family history of prostate cancer, high fat diet, and age. Commonly diagnosed benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) does not increase the risk of developing prostate cancer, according to most clinical studies. Prostate cancers are relative rare in young patients. The risk for prostate cancer increases significantly with age. 

Almost all prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas. Other types of cancer, such as transitional, squamous cell carcinomas, and small cell cancers are very rare. The incidence of prostate cancer has rose continuously for more than two decades. The rise in incidence is partially caused by improved detection capability, especially using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. Currently, 70-80% of prostate cancers are organ-confined at diagnosis. 

Prostate cancer tends to arise from the peripheral zone of the prostate. Patients are often asymptomatic at diagnosis. Early onset of obstructive urinary symptoms are not very common due to the location of most prostate cancers.

At the time of diagnosis, the cancer can remain in the prostate gland (localized) or spread (metastasize) to nearby lymph nodes, bladder, rectum or more remote organs such as bone and liver. Bone is the most common site of prostate cancer metastases. Metastases to other organs may occur but are quite rare.

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