The Biology and Natural History of Prostate Cancer: A Short Introduction

  • Lars HolmbergEmail author
  • Mieke Van Hemelrijck
Part of the Recent Results in Cancer Research book series (RECENTCANCER, volume 202)


This chapter aims to serve as a quick glance outlining an overall picture of mainstream thoughts, and to serve as a point of departure for more thorough discussions. The introduction of PSA testing has immensely complicated research in prostate cancer epidemiology and biology and added new clinical and biological domains. As for many cancers, age and ethnic origin are the strongest known risk factors. While migrant studies imply that environment and/or personal life style is important, epidemiological studies have failed to establish any strong leads. Despite the known androgen dependence of prostate cancer, there is little to support that circulating levels of androgens, estrogens or 5-alpha-reductase are associated with risk of developing the disease. However, a consistent finding is a positive association with levels of Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1). Prostate cancer is one of the cancers most strongly related to inherited susceptibility, even when taking into account that family history of prostate cancer triggers PSA testing among relatives. A number of somatic genetic alterations (amplifications, deletions, point mutations, translocations) are associated with prostate cancer risk. Findings for alterations in FASN, HPN, AMACR and MYC have been fairly consistent. Recent research shows that the notion of “hormone-independent prostate cancer” has to be revised: most prostate cancers remain dependent on androgen receptor signalling also after progression despite traditional androgen deprivation therapy. Traditional markers of stage and type of disease still play a major role for prognostication and treatment decisions. Prostate cancer is one of the few cancers where patients have been recommended watchful waiting or active surveillance. This provides opportunities for studies of natural history of the disease. The understanding of prostate cancer aetiology and natural history has progressed slowly. However, the current situation is positively challenging and opens up possibilities for fruitful research.


Prostate Cancer Active Surveillance Prostate Cancer Risk Watchful Waiting Androgen Receptor Signalling 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Surgical SciencesUppsala University Regional Cancer Center University HospitalUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.School of Medicine Division of Cancer StudiesKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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