Prostate cancer is more common in older men than younger men. After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United States.
Even though prostate cancer is common, the risks of getting screened (tested) for prostate cancer can outweigh the benefits.
If you are age 55 to 69:
- The decision to get screened is a personal choice that you can make after talking with your doctor.
- You might decide that you are okay with the risks of getting screened, or you might decide the risks aren't worth it.
- Together, you and your doctor can decide what's right for you.
If you are age 70 or older:
- Prostate screening isn't recommended because the risks outweigh the benefits for most men.
- This is true even if you are at a higher risk for prostate cancer.
- If you have questions about prostate cancer, talk to your doctor.
Many men have questions about prostate cancer screening. The information below can help you start a conversation with your doctor or nurse about the risks and benefits of screening.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is the gland that makes part of semen (the fluid that carries sperm). It’s located below the bladder and in front of the rectum.
Who is at risk for prostate cancer?
Any man can get prostate cancer. But the risk is higher for men who:
- Are age 50 or older
- Are African American
- Have a father, brother, or son who had prostate cancer
Why isn’t prostate screening recommended for all men?
All screening tests have both risks and benefits. Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to get screened:
- Many prostate cancers grow so slowly that men won't have symptoms or die from the cancer.
- Treatment for prostate cancer can cause problems like erectile dysfunction (impotence) or loss of bladder control.
- The results of prostate cancer screening tests can sometimes be wrong, and follow-up tests can cause problems like infections.
What do I ask the doctor?
Here are some questions you may want to ask:
- Am I at higher risk for prostate cancer?
- Are there things I can do to lower my risk for prostate cancer?
- What are the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening and treatment for me?
- Are there any warning signs or symptoms of prostate cancer I should look out for?
- If the results of the screening test show that I might have prostate cancer, what are my options for diagnosis and treatment?
Content last updated January 7, 2021
This information on prostate cancer was adapted from materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute.
Richard Manrow, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Office of Communications and Education
National Cancer Institute
National Institutes of Health