What Is Prostate Cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 180,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed and about 26,000 men will die from the disease in 2016. Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer among men in the U.S., second only to skin cancer. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 66, and it is rarely found in men younger than 45.

The disease develops in a man’s prostate gland, which is a small (walnut-sized) gland in the reproductive system located under the bladder and in front of the rectum. This gland makes part of the seminal fluid that protects and nourishes sperm as it is carried out of the body during ejaculation.

The prostate surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that carries sperm and urine out of the body through the penis. Because of that, one common sign of prostate problems is difficulty in urinating.

What Causes Prostate Cancer?

It is not yet known what specifically causes prostate cancer. However, there are some common risk factors that may increase the chance of developing the disease.

Factors that Result in a Higher Risk of Prostate Cancer Include:

  • Age — about 60% of prostate cancers are in men over the age of 65
  • Ethnicity — African-American men are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer
  • Family history — men who have a father or brother with prostate cancer are at more than double the risk of developing prostate cancer

Please note that having a risk factor doesn’t mean that you will develop prostate cancer. Most men who have these risk factors never develop the disease.

What Is Prolaris, And How Can It Help Me?

Prolaris is a measure of how fast the cells in your prostate tumor are dividing. The biopsy tissue sample used to diagnose a patient with prostate cancer can also be used to determine a Prolaris Score™. Studies have shown that Prolaris provides an accurate assessment of cancer aggressiveness.1, 2 And, because every individual’s prostate cancer is different, the result of each Prolaris test is unique to each patient.

Most men likely already know their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level and Gleason score. These tests tell your doctor how far the cancer has progressed but not necessarily the “aggressiveness” of the disease. Two patients with the same PSA and Gleason score may have a very different estimate of mortality risk when their Prolaris Score is included in their evaluation. Since cancer is the uncontrolled rapid growth of abnormal cells, an aggressive prostate tumor carries the potential risk of growing and spreading rapidly to other parts of the body.

What Prolaris measures is not whether you have prostate cancer, but how fast your cancer cells are dividing, or its aggressiveness. Getting a Prolaris Score will tell your doctor additional information about your cancer, which will help in determining its aggressiveness.3,4 This is because Prolaris provides unique information about your cancer that no other test can provide.

Learn more about Prolaris


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prostate cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/index.htm. Accessed August 10, 2012.

2. Cuzick J, Berney DM, Fisher G, et al; Transatlantic Prostate Group. Prognostic value of a cell cycle progression signature for prostate cancer death in a conservatively managed needle biopsy cohort. Br J Cancer. 2012;106(6):1-5.

3. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology. Prostate Cancer V1.1.2010.p. MS-2 www.nccn.org. Accessed April 2, 2010.

4. Thompson I, Leach RJ, Pollack BH, Naylor SL. Prostate cancer and prostate specific antigen: the more we know, the less we understand. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003;95:1027-28.