Who does prostate cancer affect?

Uncommon in younger men, the frequency with which cancer affects the prostate gland increases with age. In fact a small spot of prostate cancer is very common in older men, occurring in up to 80% of 80-year olds who, having died from a cause other than prostate cancer, have had their prostate examined at post-mortem. These little spots of prostate cancer – or foci, as they are called – occur in 70% of 70-year olds, 60% of 60-year olds and 50% of 50-year olds. The relationship between these spots of cancer and the development of a malignant growth is as yet unknown.

Prostate cancer is the second most common malignancy of men in the Western world and its incidence has been increasing over the last decade (a higher prevalence being partly due to the PSA screening programme). There are 6500 deaths in the UK annually from this cancer and a lifetime risk of developing this disease of around 7-10 %.

With the increased usage of PSA screening, the disease is being more readily picked up in its early stages and it is in this group of patients that the very high cure rates are now being achieved – either by surgery, external beam conformal radiotherapy or prostate seed brachytherapy (this last – brachytherapy – becoming more popular over radical surgery in the last few years in the USA, and becoming more so in the UK)