Prostate Cancer

What is prostate cancer?

The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland that is part of the male reproductive system that is involved in the production of semen. Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal prostate cells develop, often from mutations in the cell DNA and grow in an uncontrolled way, often multiplying and spreading. 1

Is prostate cancer hereditary?

Approximately 5 –10% of all prostate cancer cases are thought to be hereditary (passed on from one family member to another).2 Gene mutations that have been implicated in inherited prostate cancer include:

  • HOXB13
    this gene is involved in the development of the prostate gland, mutations in this gene have been linked to early onset cases of prostate cancer, although this gene mutation is uncommon. 2
  • BRCA 1 and BRCA 2
    mutations in these genes have been implicated in breast and ovarian cancers in women; however they are also implicated in prostate cancer in men, especially BRCA 2 gene mutations.2
  • MSH2 and MLH1
    these genes help repair mismatched DNA, mutations in these genes can result in a condition called Lynch Syndrome, which increases the risk of prostate, colorectal and other cancers.2
  • RNASEL (also known as HPC1)
    this gene helps to get rid of cells that begin to function abnormally. However mutations in this gene mean these abnormal cells are no longer destroyed, which can lead to an increased risk of prostate cancer. 2

However the majority of prostate cancer cases are thought to be due to an acquired gene mutation, which means cell mutations that occur during a man’s lifetime, rather than the mutations being passed down from generations.2

Stages of prostate cancer

The TNM system is used to stage prostate cancer. A stage between 1 and 4 is given, with a higher number indicating a more serious stage of cancer.

The TNM stands for: 4

  • Tumour – the degree to which the tumour has affected other tissue.
  • Node – is a measure of whether lymph nodes have been affected.
  • Metastasis – the degree to which the cancer has spread to other organs of the body.

Along with the TNM information, your doctor will also take into consideration your PSA (prostate specific antigen) level from a blood test, as well as your Gleason score to help determine the stage of your cancer.  The Gleason score is usually based on the results of a biopsy of the prostate, and it provides an indication of how quickly the cancer will grow and spread.10

Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer

In the early stages of prostate cancer you may not experience symptoms, but as the disease progresses you may experience some or all of the following: 3

Frequent need to urinate

Difficulty starting or stopping urination

Sudden urge to urinate

Reduced flow of urine

Blood in urine or semen

Lower back pain or pain in the hip area

Unexplained weight loss and fatigue


Frequently asked questions

What causes prostate cancer?

Whilst there is no one cause of prostate cancer, some factors that can increase your risk include: 3

  • Being over 50 years
  • High levels of testosterone has been associated with prostate cancer
  • Family history of cancer (breast, ovarian, prostate)
  • Low intakes of fruit and vegetables
What can I do to decrease my risk of prostate cancer?

Whilst there is no one way to prevent prostate cancer from developing 7, there are some life-style related factors you can do to reduce prostate cancer developing which include:

  • Regular exercise – aim for at least 30 minutes per day
  • Eating a balanced and healthy diet – for more information on healthy eating you can find information here on Australian Dietary Guidelines
  • Maintain a healthy weight – within the normal BMI (Body Mass Index)* range of 18.5 – 24.9kg/m2.6

*To calculate your BMI = (weight(kg))/(height(m))2

What’s the risk of having cancer again?

Here are some useful links on the risks of developing prostate cancer again, or being affected by a second type of cancer.


For a full list of references, click here.
  1. What is prostate cancer? (n.d). Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. Retrieved on 11thFebruary 2019 from
  2. What causes prostate cancer? (2016). American Cancer Society. Retrieved on 11th February 2019 from
  3. Prostate cancer. (2018). Cancer Council. Retrieved on 12th February 2019 from
  4. TNM System. (2016). Cancer Council. Retrieved on 12th February 2019 from
  5. What you need to know about prostate cancer. (n.d). Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. Retrieved on 12th February 2019 from
  6. Overweight and obesity. (n.d). Cancer Australia. Australian Government. Retrieved on 13thFebruary 2019 from
  7. Can prostate cancer be prevented? (2016). American Cancer Society. Retrieved on 13thFebruary 2019 from
  8. Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer. (2016). American Cancer Society. Retrieved on 13thFebruary 2019 from
  9. Radiation therapy for prostate cancer. (2016). American Cancer Society. Retrieved on 13thFebruary 2019 from
  10. Prostate cancer stages (2017). American Cancer Society. Retrieved on 13th February 2019 from
  11. How is prostate cancer diagnosed? (2017). Australian Government, Cancer Australia. Retrieved on 13th February 2019 from

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