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September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Photo: A smiling manDid you know that prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the United States, after lung cancer? It is the most common form of cancer in men (other than some forms of skin cancer).


Medical illustration: Prostate location

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that only men have. It is part of the reproductive system that makes the fluid that carries sperm. The prostate is located in front of the rectum and just below the bladder. The urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body) runs through the center of the prostate.

Causes and Prevention

Medical experts do not know what causes prostate cancer or how to prevent prostate cancer, but they are studying many factors. While all men are at risk for prostate cancer, some factors increase risk:

  1. Age. The older a man is, the greater his risk for getting prostate cancer.
  2. Family history. A man with a father, brother, or son who has had prostate cancer is two to three times more likely to develop the disease himself.
  3. Race and ethnicity. Prostate cancer is more common in some racial and ethnic groups than in others. Prostate cancer is more common in African-American men than in white men. It is less common in Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American men than in white men.

Some prostate cancers become a serious threat to health by growing quickly, spreading beyond the prostate gland to other parts of the body, and causing death. Other prostate cancers grow slowly and never become a serious threat to health or affect how long a man lives.


The main screening tools for prostate cancer are the digital rectal examination (DRE) and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. The DRE and PSA tests cannot tell if you have cancer; they can only suggest the need for further tests. Evidence is mixed about whether early detection improves health outcomes.

Some medical experts believe all men should be offered regular screening tests for prostate cancer. Other medical experts do not. Given the uncertainty about the benefit of screening, CDC supports informed decision making about screening. When a man understands the nature and risks of prostate cancer and the risks, benefits, and alternatives to screening, he can make a decision consistent with his preferences and values.

Photo: An older man consulting a healthcare professional

Is prostate cancer screening right for you? The decision is yours. To help men aged 50 years or older understand both sides of the issue, CDC has developed several helpful guides:

More Information The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348, 24 Hours/Every Day -

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