Prostate cancer develops in the walnut-sized gland underneath the male bladder. It is the most common cancer, other than skin cancer and is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men.
The disease, which often develops slowly, is different to most other cancers because small areas of cancer within the prostate are common, especially in older men and may not grow or cause any problems. This presents men diagnosed with prostate cancer with some extremely difficult choices.
Prostate cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in men and the fifth most common cancer overall. One in six men will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime and the overwhelming majority of cases occur in wealthy countries.
Each year, about 37,000 men in the UK and some 210,000 men in the US are diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 10,000 and 28,000 respectively die each year of the disease. In the US there are over two million men living with the disease and African American men have a higher incidence of prostate cancer and double the mortality rate compared with other racial and ethnic groups. In the US about US$10 billion is spent annually on treatments for the disease.
Traditional treatments to stop the spread of prostate cancer involve surgery and radiotherapy, which has significant side effects. Following such treatments 50% of patients experience impotence, up to 20% suffer incontinence and between one and five percent who receive radiotherapy experience pain and bleeding.