What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland. It is usually the size and shape of a walnut and grows bigger as you get older. It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine (wee) out of the body. The prostate's main job is to help make semen – the fluid that carries sperm.
The most common prostate problems are an enlarged prostate, prostatitis and prostate cancer.
Know your prostate booklet
This booklet is a guide to the prostate – what it is, what it does, and what can go wrong with it.
Who has a prostate?
The following people have a prostate:
- trans women*
- non-binary people who were assigned male at birth**
- some intersex people.***
* A trans woman is someone who was assigned male at birth but identifies as a woman. Trans women can develop prostate problems, even if they have taken hormones. The prostate is not removed during genital reconstructive surgery.
** A non-binary person may not identify as a man or a woman.
*** An intersex person may have both male and female sexual characteristics and so might have a prostate.
Trans, non-binary or intersex?
The information on this website has been developed based on guidance and evidence in men. If you are a trans woman, male-assigned non-binary or intersex, some of this information is still relevant to you – but your experience may be slightly different. Find out more about trans women and prostate cancer.
What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer can develop when cells in the prostate start to grow in an uncontrolled way.
Some prostate cancer grows too slowly to cause any problems or affect how long you live. Because of this, many men with prostate cancer will never need any treatment.
But some prostate cancer grows quickly and is more likely to spread. This is more likely to cause problems and needs treatment to stop it spreading.
Signs and symptoms
Prostate cancer that’s contained inside the prostate (called localised prostate cancer or early prostate cancer) doesn’t usually cause any symptoms. That's why it's important to know about your risk.
But some men might have some urinary problems. These can be mild and happen over many years and may be a sign of a benign prostate problem, rather than prostate cancer.
Find out more information about the possible symptoms of prostate cancer.
If you think you might be at risk of prostate cancer or are experiencing any symptoms, visit your GP or speak to our Specialist Nurses.
If you’re not sure about what to say to your GP, print and fill out this form and show it to them. This will help you have the conversation.
Are you at risk?
In the UK, about 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime.
Prostate cancer mainly affects men over 50, and your risk increases with age. The risk is even higher for black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer.
Find out more about your risk.
See and share our infographic on prostate cancer risk.
Facts and figures
Below are some of the very basic facts and figures about prostate cancer.
Across the UK
- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.
- More than 52,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year on average – that's 143 men every day.
- Every 45 minutes one man dies from prostate cancer – that's more than 12,000 men every year.
- 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
- Around 475,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer.
- More than 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in England.
- More than 10,000 men die from prostate cancer every year in England.
- Every hour, one man dies from prostate cancer in England.
- More than 410,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer in England.
- More than 3,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in Scotland.
- Around 1,000 men die from prostate cancer every year in Scotland.
- More than 30,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer in Scotland.
- More than 3,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in Wales.
- Around 600 men die from prostate cancer every year in Wales.
- Around 21,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer in Wales.
In Northern Ireland
- More than 1,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in Northern Ireland.
- More than 250 men die every year from prostate cancer in Northern Ireland.
- More than 12,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer in Northern Ireland.
References and reviewers
Updated: June 2022 | Due for Review: July 2023
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Facts and figures
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- Cancer Registration Statistics, England 2019 [Internet]. NHS Digital. [cited 2022 Jun 13]. Available from: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/cancer-registration-statistics/england-2019
- Cancer Research UK. Cancer incidence for common cancers [Internet]. Cancer Research UK. 2015 [cited 2021 Nov 3]. Available from: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/incidence/common-cancers-compared
- CancerData [Internet]. [cited 2022 Jun 13]. Available from: https://www.cancerdata.nhs.uk/prevalence
- Lloyd T, Hounsome L, Mehay A, Mee S, Verne J, Cooper A. Lifetime risk of being diagnosed with, or dying from, prostate cancer by major ethnic group in England 2008–2010. BMC Med [Internet]. 2015 Dec [cited 2015 Nov 5];13(1). Available from: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/13/171
- Prostate cancer | N. Ireland Cancer Registry [Internet]. [cited 2022 Jun 13]. Available from: https://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/CancerInformation/official-statistics/BySite/Prostatecancer/
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- Public Health Scotland. Cancer incidence in Scotland - Cancer incidence and prevalence in Scotland to December 2019 - Cancer incidence in Scotland - Publications - Public Health Scotland [Internet]. [cited 2021 Nov 3]. Available from: https://publichealthscotland.scot/publications/cancer-incidence-in-scotland/cancer-incidence-in-scotland-cancer-incidence-and-prevalence-in-scotland-to-december-2019/
- Public Health Wales. Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (WCISU) - Public Health Wales [Internet]. [cited 2021 Nov 4]. Available from: https://phw.nhs.wales/services-and-teams/welsh-cancer-intelligence-and-surveillance-unit-wcisu/
Updated: June 2022 | Due for Review: June 2023
This information has been reviewed for accuracy and updated by:
- our Health Information team
- our Specialist Nurses.