An enlarged prostate is the most common prostate problem in men.

An enlarged prostate is common in men after the age of about 50. You may hear an enlarged prostate called benign prostatic enlargement (BPE) or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Having an enlarged prostate does not mean you have cancer.

In some cases, an enlarged prostate can cause the urethra to narrow which can slow down or stop the flow of urine.

About 4 out of every 10 men over the age of 50 (40 per cent) and 3 out of 4 men in their 70s (75 per cent) have urinary symptoms that are caused by an enlarged prostate.

What causes an enlarged prostate?

We don't yet fully understand what causes the prostate gland to grow. However, there are two risk factors that we do know about:

Age

Your risk of developing an enlarged prostate increases as you get older. Many men over the age of 50 will have an enlarged prostate gland but not all will get symptoms.

Hormone levels

The balance of hormones in your body changes as you get older and this may cause your prostate gland to grow.

Other factors

Some studies have shown that obese men and men who have diabetes may be more at risk of developing an enlarged prostate. You may be able to reduce your risk by doing more exercise. However, we still need more studies into the causes of enlarged prostate to know for certain if, and how, we can prevent it.

There is also some research that suggests you may be more at risk of developing an enlarged prostate if your father or brother have the condition. Again, further studies are needed to confirm this.

How is an enlarged prostate diagnosed?

Your GP may do some tests to diagnose an enlarged prostate. They may also refer you to a specialist doctor or nurse at the hospital.

What are the treatment options for an enlarged prostate?

There are three main types of treatment for an enlarged prostate:

  • lifestyle changes
  • medicines
  • surgery

Am I more likely to get prostate cancer if I have an enlarged prostate?

Having an enlarged prostate does not put you at greater risk of getting prostate cancer. The two conditions begin in different areas of the prostate gland. However, it is possible to have both an enlarged prostate and prostate cancer at the same time. In most cases, early prostate cancer does not cause any urinary symptoms. Visit your GP if you are concerned about prostate cancer. You can also call our Specialist Nurses on our confidential helpline.