Hidden Prostate Cancer Detected

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the United States, after lung cancer, and the seventh leading cause of death overall for American men.

The incidence of prostate cancer has surged dramatically in recent years because of improved cancer screening and detection. In most cases, prostate cancer grows slowly for years, giving most men with early disease no obvious symptoms. All men are at risk for this cancer, but age, race, and family history may further increase the risk.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh analyzed a data set on incidental prostate cancer, which was derived from a project accruing prostate tissues for research from normal organ donors, all of whom had died suddenly. The cause of death in more than 90 percent of the donors included stroke, motor vehicle accidents, gunshot wounds, heart attacks, and trauma. None of the men had known prostate cancer. Evaluation of prostate tissues revealed adenocarcinoma in 12 percent of cases.

In their autopsy study of organ donors, the pathologists noticed an age-dependent increase in asymptomatic prostate cancer among the donors. The rate of prostate adenocarcinoma appeared to increase steadily in men over 50 years of age. One third of men who had died in their 60's showed tumorous growths in the prostate gland, and nearly 50 percent of the men between 70 and 81 years of age were harboring prostate cancer.

(Source: Journal of Urology, 2008;179:892-895.)

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