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.

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Who has a prostate?

The following people have a prostate:

  • men
  • 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.

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. (Last updated: September 2018)

Across the UK

  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.
  • More than 47,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year – that's 129 men every day.
  • Every 45 minutes one man dies from prostate cancer – that's more than 11,500 men every year.
  • 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
  • Around 400,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer.

In England

  • More than 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in England.
  • More than 9,000 men die from prostate cancer every year in England.
  • Every hour, one man dies from prostate cancer in England.
  • More than 325,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer in England.

In Scotland

  • More than 3,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in Scotland.
  • Around 900 men die from prostate cancer every year in Scotland.
  • More than 26,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer in Scotland.

In Wales

  • More than 2,500 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 200 men die every year from prostate cancer in Northern Ireland.
  • More than 9,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer in Northern Ireland.

References and reviewers

Updated: July 2019 | Due for Review: December 2021

  • List of references  

    • Albertsen PC, Hanley JA, Fine J. 20-year outcomes following conservative management of clinically localized prostate cancer. JAMA; 2005.
    • Cancer Research UK. Prostate cancer incidence statistics: Prostate cancer incidence by age (2011-2013) [Internet]. [cited 2018 Dec 12]. Available from: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/prostate-cancer/incidence
    • Collin SM, Metcalfe C, Donovan J, Lane JA, Davis M, Neal D, et al. Associations of lower urinary tract symptoms with prostate-specific antigen levels, and screen-detected localized and advanced prostate cancer: a case-control study nested within the UK population-based ProtecT (Prostate testing for cancer and Treatment) study. BJU Int. 2008 Jun 6;102(0):1400–6.
    • Ellent E, Matrana MR. Metastatic Prostate Cancer 35 Years After Sex Reassignment Surgery. Clin Genitourin Cancer. 2016 Apr 1;14(2):e207–9.
    • Gooren L, Morgentaler A. Prostate cancer incidence in orchidectomised male-to-female transsexual persons treated with oestrogens. Andrologia. 2014 Dec;46(10):1156–60.
    • Kheirandish P, Chinegwundoh F. Ethnic differences in prostate cancer. Br J Cancer. 2011 Aug 9;105(4):481–5.
    • Kiciński M, Vangronsveld J, Nawrot TS. An Epidemiological Reappraisal of the Familial Aggregation of Prostate Cancer: A Meta-Analysis. Little J, editor. PLoS ONE. 2011 Oct 31;6(10):e27130.
    • Molokwu CN, Applebaum JS, Miksad RA. Detection of prostate cancer following gender reassignment. BJU Int. 2008;101(2):257–257.
    • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Prostate cancer: diagnosis and management. NICE guideline 131. 2019.
    • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Prostate Cancer: diagnosis and treatment. Full guideline 175. 2014.
    • Public Health England. Prostate cancer risk management programme (PCRMP): benefits and risks of PSA testing [Internet]. GOV.UK; 2016. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prostate-cancer-risk-management-programme-psa-test-benefits-and-risks/prostate-cancer-risk-management-programme-pcrmp-benefits-and-risks-of-psa-testing
    • Rebbeck TR, Devesa SS, Chang B-L, Bunker CH, Cheng I, Cooney K, et al. Global Patterns of Prostate Cancer Incidence, Aggressiveness, and Mortality in Men of African Descent. Prostate Cancer. 2013;2013:1–12.
    • Speakman M, Kirby R, Doyle S, Ioannou C. Burden of male lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) suggestive of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) - focus on the UK: Burden of male LUTS suggestive of BPH. BJU Int. 2015 Apr;115(4):508–19.

    Facts and figures

    • Cancer Research UK. Cancer incidence for common cancers: Ten most common cancers in males (2015) [Internet]. 20148 [cited 2018 Aug 24]. Available from: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/incidence/common-cancers-compared#heading-One
    • ISD Scotland. Cancer Statistics | Male Genital Organ Cancer -Incidence, Mortality, Prevalence, Survival [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2018 June]. Available from: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Cancer-Statistics/Male-Genital-Organs/
    • Macmillan WCISU partnership. Cancer incidence and prevalence for cluster networks in Wales. 2018. [cited 2018 Sept] Available from: https://public.tableau.com/views/CancerincidencenumberofnewcasesandprevalencepeoplelivingafteradiagnosisofcancerforclusternetworksinWales/Prevalencebyvariable?%3Aembed=y&%3AshowVizHome=no
    • ONS. England_Incidence, Mortality_2016 (rel 2018) [Internet]. [cited 2018 June 18]. Available from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/datasets/cancerregistrationstatisticscancerregistrationstatisticsengland
    • Public Health England/Macmillan. Cancer Prevalence in England: 21 year prevalence by demographic and geographic measures
    • Queen’s University Belfast | N. Ireland Cancer Registry. Queen’s University Belfast | N. Ireland Cancer Registry_Incidence, Mortality, Survival_2016 (rel 2018) [Internet]. [cited 2018 June 18]. Available from: https://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/CancerInformation/official-statistics/BySite/Prostate/
    • Unit WCI and S. Wales Incidence_2016 (rel 2019) [Internet]. [cited 2019 Feb 1]. Available from: http://www.wcisu.wales.nhs.uk/dashboard-data-5
    • Unit WCI and S. Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, June 2017_Mortality [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2017 Jul 17]. Available from: http://www.wcisu.wales.nhs.uk/dashboard-data-4

  • List of reviewers  

    • Bev Baxter, Clinical Nurse Specialist, University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust
    • Ben Challacombe, Consultant Urological Surgeon and Senior Lecturer, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London
    • Jon Rees, GP, Tyntesfield Medical Group, North Somerset
    • Our Specialist Nurses
    • Our Volunteers.