Prostate cancer is the deadliest cancer (excluding lung cancer) of American men. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2003 about 220,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 31,000 men will die from the disease. Prostate cancer accounts for about 11% of male cancer-related deaths.

Today, more and more men in their 40’s and 50’s are being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Some are being diagnosed as early as in their 30’s, but the majority of all cases occur in men over age 60. For reasons that are not clearly understood, the incidence rate is significantly greater for African-American. African-American men die of prostate cancer at twice the rate of Caucasian men.

Prostate cancer is most curable when it is detected early. The Prostate Cancer Research Institute (PCRI) recommends that every man age fifty or older have an examination of their prostate called a DRE, as part of their annual physical check-up and a simple blood test for Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). The American Cancer Society also suggests a PSA blood test, for men age 50 and older and for men with a family history of prostate cancer or breast cancer as well as all African-American men PSA testing starting at age 45.

Some prostate cancers can grow and spread quickly, especially in younger men. The digital rectal exam (DRE) in combination with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test can aid in determining if a man has prostate cancer. If the prostate gland feels abnormal and/or the age-corrected PSA level is abnormally elevated or rising at an abnormal rate.

Elevated levels of PSA may indicate a need for additional follow-up. If there is a history of prostate or breast cancer in the family, the Prostate Cancer Research Institute (PCRI) recommends that men should consider PSA tests as early as 40 years old.

The prostate gland is about the size of a walnut and is located in front of the rectum, behind the base of the penis, and under the bladder. It is found only in men, and produces some of the seminal fluid, which protects and nourishes sperm cells. The prostate surrounds the upper part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine and semen out of the penis. Nerves close to the prostate take part in causing an erection of the penis, and treatments that remove or damage these nerves can cause erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence.

Prostate cancer cells may eventually spread outside of the gland to other parts of the body. Most prostate cancers grow very slowly, especially in older men. Such tumors may have been present for years before being diagnosed, so older men with the disease generally will die of other causes rather than from prostate cancer itself. Fifty-eight percent of all prostate cancers are discovered while still localized; the 5-year relative survival rate for patients whose tumors are diagnosed at this stage is 100%. Over the past 20 years, the survival rates for all stages combined have increased from 67% to 93%. Survival after a diagnosis of prostate cancer continues to decline beyond five years. According to the most recent data, 68% of men diagnosed early survive 10 years and 52% survive 15 years.

Sources used for this fact sheet come from the
American Cancer Society
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Proceeds of the Prostate Cancer Climb will go exclusively to funding education and research. Distribution of the Hap Weyman Memorial Prostate Cancer Project Fund will be determined by the Independent Educational Research Funding Committee (IERFC).