Urological Clinic Munich-Planegg

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the uncontrolled division of prostate cells. This uncontrolled cell division gives rise to a malignant prostate tumour. This can invade the blood or lymphatic system, via which it can spread to form secondary tumours (metastases), primarily in the lymph nodes and bones.

What does the prostate do?

The prostate gland plays an important role in male fertility. It produces a fluid which is an important component of semen. In combination with the internal urethral sphincter, it also ensures that sperm is ejaculated out through the urethra rather than into the bladder.

Once a man has finished fathering his family, the prostate therefore has little further function. The prostate is not required for an erection.

How common is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer remains the most common cancer among men in Germany. There are currently around 65,000 new cases per year, and this number is expected to increase in future. In men, prostate cancer is now the third most common cause of cancer-related death, with around 13,000 deaths per year.

It primarily affects men aged over 50, with the average age at diagnosis being 72. Malignant prostate cancer can, however, also occasionally occur in men under 50, especially in men with a family history of the disease. In these younger men in particular the disease can progress rapidly if not diagnosed and treated early.

It is therefore all the more important that men undergo regular cancer screening from the age of 45. Prostate cancer is usually curable if detected early.

What causes it?

The causes of prostate cancer are far from clear. It is known that a predisposition to prostate cancer can be inherited (genetic predisposition). Brothers and sons of people with prostate cancer are more likely to develop prostate cancer and will develop it on average 10 years earlier. It is thought that around one in ten people with prostate cancer have a genetic predisposition to the disease.

Hormones (especially the male sex hormone testosterone), specific environmental factors, lifestyle and diet also play an important role. A diet high in meat and low in vitamins and a lack of exercise both increase the risk of developing prostate cancer, while a diet low in meat and fat and high in vitamins may reduce this risk.

Are there any warning signs?

As with many other cancers, people with early stage prostate cancer will often experience no or only non-specific symptoms. Occasionally, problems passing water may be the first sign of prostate cancer, though this can also be caused by many other factors.

If the cancer is advanced or if secondary cancers (metastases) are present, the patient may have visible blood in their urine or bone pain.