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Epidemiology of Prostate Cancer

Written By

Martin Dörr, Anne Schlesinger-Raab and Jutta Engel

Submitted: 27 April 2012 Published: 16 January 2013

DOI: 10.5772/52150

From the Edited Volume

Advances in Prostate Cancer

Edited by Gerhard Hamilton

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1. Introduction

This chapter presents the current state of prostate cancer epidemiology and compares data from different regions. The data are taken from several sources:

Globocan 2008 [1] gives a glance on the worldwide situation in cancer epidemiology and permits the comparison of more and less developed regions in every continent.

The “Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results” Program (SEER) [2] in the USA and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) [3] in Germany present epidemiologic data of highly industrialized nations with maximally developed medical systems.

The Munich Cancer Registry (MCR) [4], a population-based clinical cancer registry of Upper Bavaria, an area of 4.5 million inhabitants in the South of Germany, presents detailed analyses of clinical data, distributions of prognostic factors and therapy, and survival analyses. Data of the MCR have also contributed to the publication “Cancer Incidence in Five Continents, Volume IX” [5].


2. Incidence and mortality

In Table 1 absolute numbers and age-standardized rates of incidence and mortality are presented for selected regions and countries [1]. In 2008 it was estimated that nearly every seventh case of male malignoma was prostate cancer (899 thousand new cases, 13.6% of the total). Therefore, in men prostate cancer was the second most diagnosed cancer after lung cancer. Approximately three quarters of these cases were diagnosed in more developed countries. The highest incidence rates were measured in Australia, New Zealand, Northern and Western Europe and Northern America. Moderate incidence rates were found in South America and Eastern Europe. The lowest incidence rates were reported from South-Central Asia.

Region Incidence absolute IncidenceASR (W) Mortality absolute MortalityASR (W)
World 899 27.9 258 7.4
More developed regions 644 61.7 136 10.5
Less developed regions 255 11.9 121 5.6
Asia 133.2 7.2 59.6 3.2
North America 213.7 85.7 32.6 9.9
Central America 20.5 34.8 8.1 12.6
South America 84.1 50.2 29.2 16.2
Australia and New Zealand 21.0 104.2 4.0 15.4
Central and Eastern Europe 58.4 29.1 23.1 10.9
Northern Europe 64.9 73.1 17.4 15.4
Southern Europe 79.5 50.0 20.4 10.4
Western Europe 167.9 93.1 28.7 12.4
Germany 70.8 82.7 12.2 11.7
Japan 38.7 22.7 10.0 5.0
USA 186.3 83.8 28.6 9.7
Brazil 41.6 50.3 14.4 16.3
China 33.8 4.3 14.3 1.8
India 14.6 3.7 10.4 2.5
Russian Federation 22.1 26.1 9.5 10.8
SouthAfricanRepublic 7.5 59.7 2.5 20.8
Absolute numbers in thousands; ASR (W): age standardised rate per 100,000 by world standard

Table 1.

Absolute numbers and age-standardised rates of incidence and mortality for selected regions and countries [1]

Despite its high proportion of cancer diagnoses, prostate cancer is the cause of cancer specific death in only every 16th case (258 thousand deaths, 6.1% of the total). This places prostate cancer on the sixth position of cancer-specific causes of death, topped by lung, liver, stomach, colorectal and oesophageal cancer. These deaths occur almost equally in both, more developed and less developed regions, thus leading to a twofold higher mortality rate in the more developed regions.

2.1. Incidence and mortality trends

Table 2 shows the current incidence and mortality of the USA [2], Germany [7, 8] and the Munich Cancer Registry [4]. These rates have changed considerably over time. Time series of more developed countries show that the incidence rates experience a drastic rise from 1985 to 1995 and remain at this high level. In the USA incidence (by world standard per 100,000) increases slowly from 1975 until 1985 (from 50 to 65). Then it rises rapidly reaching a peak of 135 in 1992. Then it decreased, since 1995 more slowly, but it remains on a higher level than before the peak (around 110). In Germany incidence is rising continuously since 1988 (from 30 to 75). The main explanation for these trends is the broad use of prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing as a screening method and performing biopsies, which started in the mid-1980s in the USA and in the early 1990s in Germany.

USA(SEER, NCHS)[2, 6] Germany(RKI)[7, 8] MCR [4]
Absolute incidence 241.7 70.8 2.9
Crude incidence 157.7 145.1
Incidence ASR (W) 106.1 82.7 76.4
Mortality ASR (W) 10.2 11.7 13.3*
Lifetime risk(%) 16.2 13.0
Median age at diagnosis(years) 67.0 69.5 67.2
Median age at death(years) 80.0 76.7
5-year overall survival(%) 77.0 79.2
5-year relative survival(%) 99.2 92.0 93.4
10-year overall survival(%) 58.2
10-year relative survival(%) 98.3 87.8

Table 2.

Epidemiologic basic numbers

Absolute numbers in thousands

ASR (W): age standardised rate per 100,000 by world standard

Incidence and mortality from cohorts of 2008 (all regions)

Absolute incidence numbers of the USA are estimates of SEER data from 2012

* Mortality ASR (W) for singular prostate cancers is 9.9

median ages from cohorts of 2005-2009 (all regions)

5-year survival from cohorts of 2002-2008 (SEER and MCR)

10-year survival from cohorts of 1998-2008 (SEER and MCR)

In the USA, mortality initially increases slightly from 1975 and since 1992 it is decreasing more rapidly (from 14 over 17 to 10). In Germany the mortality rate (by world standard per 100,000) stays stable at 13.

2.2. Age distribution and age-specific incidence and mortality rate

Nearly all patients (≈ 99%) who are diagnosed with prostate cancer have reached an age of fifty or higher. The age distribution at diagnosis describes a positively skewed unimodal distribution with its modus at the age group 65-69. This age group contributes to nearly 25% of all prostate cancer cases. The risk of getting prostate cancer increases nearly exponentially with increasing age. This makes prostate cancer one of the most distinctive cancers in aging populations (Figure 1) with a ASIR of 800-1000 per 100,000 in the elderly of 70 years and older.

Figure 1.

Age distribution at diagnosis and age-specific incidence rate (ASIR) of prostate cancer (1998-2008) [4]

Nearly all patients who died of prostate cancer (singular initial malignoma) have reached an age of fifty-five or higher. The distribution of age at death describes a negatively skewed unimodal distribution with its modus at the highest age group 85+. Here the age-specific mortality rates (ASMR) can perfectly be described by an exponential function. The risk of dying by prostate cancer increases accelerated with increasing age (Figure 2). The ASMR reaches 450 per 100,000 for men with an age of 80-84 and already 600 per 100,000 for men older than 84.

Figure 2.

Age distribution at death and age-specific mortality rate (ASMR) of prostate cancer (1998-2009) [4]


3. Prognostic factors

According to Table 3 the conditional age distributions of the combined T categories 2 until 4 have the same shape and the modus at the age group of 65 until 69. These distributions are shifted slightly towards higher ages with the increasing T category. This simply reflects that it takes time to develop an advanced tumour. However, in those patients diagnosed with T1 category (clinically) the age distribution appears to be totally different. Here 80% of the men are older than 64 (about 60% within the other T categories) and every third man is older than 74.

T category All
Age (years) 0.5 2.3 1.4 1.8 1.8
50 - 54 1.5 4.5 3.5 3.0 3.8
55 - 59 3.0 11.0 10.2 11.1 9.8
60 - 64 9.7 20.2 18.2 15.1 18.2
65 - 69 20.9 31.4 32.8 26.4 30.1
70 - 74 26.1 20.2 23.1 19.7 21.7
≥75 38.3 10.4 10.8 22.9 14.7
Lymph node status 2.5 1.6 18.4 45.1 7.3
N0 40.6 85.2 73.5 33.6 76.2
NX 56.9 13.2 8.1 21.2 16.5
Metastasis status 97.4 98.8 95.4 72.6 96.9
M1 2.6 1.2 4.6 27.4 3.1
PSA value (ng/ml) 25.8 13.2 7.8 3.7 13.2
< 4
4 - <10 42.0 60.7 41.5 18.9 52.4
10 - <20 17.5 18.3 24.9 15.7 19.7
≥20 14.7 7.8 25.7 61.8 14.8
Gleason Score 14.3 1.6 0.2 0.2 2.9
2 - 4
5 - 6 54.8 48.1 12.3 4.2 39.1
7 19.1 40.5 49.4 26.6 39.3
8 - 10 11.8 9.8 38.2 68.9 18.7

Table 3.

Prognostic factors by T category [4]

Presented numbers are column-wise percentages.

T category is a combination of cT and pT.

The disease cohort is limited to 2005-2009 to provide best current estimators.

Lymph node category (N), distant primary metastases (M), Gleason Score, initial PSA value and Gleason Score are positively correlated with the combined T category: the higher the T category, the higher the PSA value, the higher the Gleason Score and the higher the porportion of regional or distant metastases.

A positive lymph node status is mostly diagnosed when the tumour has spread through the prostatic capsule. Nearly 20% of those men with T3 and almost 50% with T4 tumours therefore are diagnosed with lymph node metastasis.

Although, only 2.4% of all prostate cancer cases have primary distant metastases, already 25% of the T4 patients are diagnosed with metastases.

About 50% of the men with prostate cancer have a PSA value of 4 to 10 ng/ml at initial diagnosis.

According to Figure 3aa shift from capsule exceeding tumours to capsule limited tumours took place in the 1990s. In the late 1980s about 15% of the diagnosed tumours were staged T4, some 45% T3 and nearly 25% T2. In the 2000s only some 5% of the diagnosed tumours were staged T4, good 20% T3 and about 60% T2. The T1 category was unaffected and oscillated around 12% during the whole time period. It seems that PSA-Screening has considerably lowered the proportion of locally advanced tumours.

Figure 3.

Distribution of T category over time (n = 35544) [4]. T category is a combination of cT and pT.


4. Therapy

Table 4 presents in detail the effects of combined T category on the choice of therapy. Guidelines [9] note that radical prostatectomy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy in combination with radiation therapy are the main primary treatment options when the tumour remains within the prostate capsule (T2) or does not invade nearby structures other than the seminal vesicles or the bladder neck (T3). A spreading prostate cancer should be treated with a hormone therapy. Active surveillance (AS) and watchful waiting (WW) are only noteworthy initial therapy strategies for tumours detected in an early stage. Although these are accepted treatment options in localised prostate cancer, they are seldom chosen compared to radical prostatectomy and hormone therapy. Transurethral resection of the prostate is not an appropriate surgical treatment option in prostate cancer but its proportion in T1 category (46.7%) indicates a greater proportion of incidentally found prostate cancers during a treatment of benign hyperplasia. Without further surgical or hormone therapy, one could classify these cases into the AS or WW groups.

T category All
Initial therapy 74.9 65.9 31.3 61.8
TUR 47.2 3.2 2.5 11.4 9.0
HIFU 4.5 3.4 0.8 0.2 2.8
XRT 16.6 6.1 9.8 12.7 8.5
Hormone 23.7 11.6 20.3 44.2 16.4
AS and WW 8.0 0.8 0.7 0.2 1.6

Table 4.

Initial therapy by T category [4]

Presented numbers are column-wise percentages.

T category is a combination of cT and pT.

The disease cohort is limited to 2005-2009 to provide best current estimators.

RPE: radical prostatectomy, TUR: transurethral resection of the prostate, HIFU: high-intensity focused ultrasound, XRT: radiation therapy, Hormone: hormone therapy, AS: active surveillance, WW: watchful waiting

As Figure 4 shows impressively, initial therapy strategies have changed noticeably over the last 20 years. In the late 1980’s radical prostatectomy was the initial therapy in about 25% of all treatments. Its rate increased continuously and finally reaches almost 60%, making this the most selected initial therapy per year since 1995. The curve of hormone therapy developed oppositely. To be more precise: hormone therapy was the most selected treatment till 1994. From 65% in 1989 it continuously decreased to now 20%. Radiation therapy (XRT) slightly increased to 10% as initial therapy. Finally, within the whole time span transurethral resection of the prostate (TUR) remains stable at a proportion of nearly 10%.

Figure 4.

Distribution of initial therapy strategies over time (n = 35544) [4]. RPE: radical prostatectomy, XRT: radiation therapy, Hormone: hormone therapy, TUR: transurethral resection of the prostate


5. Survival

The following figures mainly present the relative survival (RS) curves, an estimator for the cancer specific survival. This is calculated by dividing the overall survival (OS) of the observed cohort by the expected survival of a normal population with the same distribution regarding birth-date and sex.

When looking at the influence of the year of diagnosis on the overall survival (Figure 5) or relative survival (Figure 6) only the curve of patients with a diagnosis in the years 1998 until 1992 noticeably differs from the other ones. Here the 5- and 10-year relative survival was 85.0% and 74.3%, respectively. In the group of patients diagnosed between 1993 and 1997 the 5- and 10-year relative survival was 94.9% and 88.6% in the group of 1998-2002 the 5- and 10-year relative survival was 94.0% and 84.1% and in the recent group of 2003-2008 the 5-year relative survival was 92.1%. Therefore, the following survival analyses are presented for patients with a diagnosis between 1998 - 2008.

Figure 5.

Overall survival by year of diagnosis (n=30902) [4]

Figure 6.

Relative survival by year of diagnosis (n=30902) [4]. Relative survival is the quotient of overall survival and expected survival and thus an estimator for the cancer specific survival.

The complete cohort of prostate cancer patients with a diagnosis between 1998 and 2008 (Figure 7) shows a 5-year overall survival of 78.8% and a 10-year overall survival of 57.7%. The relative survival is 93.6% and 84.1%, respectively. For comparison: SEER data show a 5-year relative survival of 99.2% for patients diagnosed between 2002 and 2008 and a 10-year relative survival of 98.3% for the cohort of 1998 – 2008.

Figure 8 presents the relative survival by the combined T category. As expected, patients with a T2-staging perform better than patients with a T1-Staging. The 5- and 10-year relative survival is 102.0% and 94.0% in T1, 104.9% and 108.8% in T2, 97.6% and 89.5% in T3 and 61.4% and 43.8% in T4, respectively. Relative survival can exceed 100%, because prostate cancer patients benefit from the better treatment of comorbidities during aftercare.

Lymph node status (N category) is an important prognostic factor. As Figure 9 shows, a positive lymph node status (N+) reduces the relative survival drastically (77.7% for 5-year and 61.9% for 10-year survival) compared to a 5- and 10-year survival of 105.5% and 107.5% in N0. Nonetheless, prostate cancer patients benefit from radical prostatectomy in the situation with lymph node metastases [10].

Figure 7.

Overall, relative and expected survival of the complete collective (1998-2008, n = 25773) [4]. Relative survival is the quotient of overall survival and expected survival and thus an estimator for the cancer specific survival.

Figure 8.

Relative Survival by T category (1998-2008, n = 20685) [4]. T category is a combination of cT and pT.

Figure 9.

Relative Survival by N category (1998-2008, n = 19726) [4]. N category is a combination of cN and pN.

Figure 10.

Relative survival by Gleason Score (1998-2008, n = 21759) [4]

Figure 11.

Post Progression Survival (1998-2008, n = 2223) [4]. Starting point of progression is from date of locoregional relapse or distant metastasis (primary M1 or metastases in further course of disease).

According to Figure 10 patients with the worst Gleason Score category (8 – 10) have a much poorer survival (73.4% for five year and 55.0% for ten year survival) than patients with a scoring of 7 and better, which does not discriminate very much (104.1% and 94.8% for Gleason Score 2 - 4, 102.2% and 98.6% for Gleason Score 5 – 6 and 98.6% and 91.8% for Gleason Score 7).

If the tumour has metastasised or locoregional recurrence has occurred, only 18.2% of the patients survive 5 years and 7.2% of the patients survive 10 years. The median survival is about two years (Figure 11).



WHO→World Health Organization

SEER→“Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results” Program of the National Cancer Institute of the USA

NCHS→National Center for Health Statistics

RKI→Robert Koch Institut

MCR→Munich Cancer Registry

PSA→Prostate specific antigen

RPE→Radical prostatectomy

XRT→Radiation therapy

HIFU→High-intensity focused ultrasound

Hormone→Hormon therapy

TUR→Transurethral resection of the prostate

AS→Active surveillance

WW→Watchful waiting

ASR (W)→Age-standardised rate, using the proposed world standard population of Segi (1960)

ASIR→Age-specific incidence rate

ASMR→Age-specific mortality rate


  1. 1. Ferlay, Shin, Bray et al., Globocan 2008: Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide; 2011.
  2. 2. National Cancer Institute: “Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results” (SEER) Program.
  3. 3. Robert Koch Institut (RKI).
  4. 4. Munich Cancer Registry (MCR).
  5. 5. IARC Scientific Publications, Cancer Incidence in Five Continents, Volume IX, 2009.
  6. 6. Siegel, Naishadham and Jemal, Cancer statistics, 2012. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 2012; 62(1):10–29.
  7. 7. Cancer in Germany 2005/2006. Incidence and Trends. Seventh edition Robert Koch Institut (ed) and Association of Population-based Cancer Registries in Germany (ed). Berlin, 2010.
  8. 8. Cancer in Germany 2007/2008. Eighth edition. Robert Koch Institut (ed) and Association of Population-based Cancer Registries in Germany (ed). Berlin, 2012.
  9. 9. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
  10. 10. Engel, Bastian et al., Survival benefit of radical prostatectomy in lymph node-positive patients with prostate cancer. Eur Urol 2010; 57(5):754-61.

Written By

Martin Dörr, Anne Schlesinger-Raab and Jutta Engel

Submitted: 27 April 2012 Published: 16 January 2013