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How common is prostate cancer?

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William G. Nelson
William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D.

Prostate cancer is extremely common in the U.S. “It’s the most common life-threatening cancer in men, responsible for 26,000 deaths per year,” says William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. But there are a lot of prostate cancers that are not life-threatening, he says. “In autopsies done for causes not related to cancer, we find small cancers in an unimaginably large fraction of men. By the time men reach 60-70 years old, two-thirds of them are harboring small cancers in their prostate; the lifetime risk of a prostate cancer diagnosis is about 1 in 8. Yet the lifetime risk of dying from prostate cancer is only about 1 in 37. What this means is many, many more men are going to die with prostate cancer than from it.”

Listen to the Cancer News Review podcast with Dr. Nelson.