While prostate cancer can be serious, most people don’t die from the disease. It’s treatable, particularly when diagnosed at an early stage.

The SEER database states that 18.8 per 100,000 men died of prostate cancer per year between 2016 and 2020. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 96% of people diagnosed between 2012 and 2018 were still alive 5 years later.

That’s likely because prostate cancer tends to be caught early on through screening programs, making successful treatment more likely, and tends to grow slowly.

It’s relatively common, though, with almost 300,000 new cases expected in 2023.

The death rate has also slowed its decline, suggesting that more people aren’t receiving a diagnosis until the cancer has reached a more advanced and serious stage.

You’ll notice that the language used to share stats and other data points is pretty binary, fluctuating between the use of “male” and “female” or “men” and “women.”

Although we typically avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.

Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data on, or include, participants who were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.

Mortality rate means the number of people who died of prostate cancer in a certain period divided by the total population number at that time.

That latter figure is usually per 100,000 people.

These rates don’t take into account age, sex, or other demographics, which need to be factored in to determine an individual person’s chance of survival.

You may also read about survival rates when it comes to cancer. These usually state the percentage of people that were alive 5 years after their cancer diagnosis and come from the SEER database.

Survival rates are simply estimates for the general population, and more modern advances in treatment along with individual demographics won’t be factored in.

Prostate cancer is split into various stages.

You may see these described as localized, regional, and distant or by numbers like Stage 1.

The categories mean the following:

  • Localized: The cancer remains inside the prostate.
  • Regional: The cancer has progressed to other areas near the prostate.
  • Distant: The cancer has progressed to further away areas like the lungs.

The stage categories are as follows:

  • Stage 1: The cancer is only inside the prostate and remains at a low grade (grade 1) or is only found in half or less of one side of the prostate.
  • Stage 2: The cancer is only still inside the prostate but may be found in both sides and may be a slightly higher grade (grade 2).
  • Stage 3: The cancer may have progressed to nearby tissue or organs, like the rectum or bladder, and may be a much higher grade (up to grade 5).
  • Stage 4: The cancer has progressed to the lymph nodes or more distant parts of the body like the bones.

Older men are more likely to develop prostate cancer. According to the SEER database, diagnosis is most common among 65 to 74-year-olds.

Mortality rates are also higher in people between the ages of 75 and 84, with the average age of death from the disease currently at 79.

A recent study found the risk of death for men diagnosed before 70 was 17%. This increased to 21% when diagnosed after the age of 70.

Prostate cancer screening means that most cases are caught at an early stage.

The more advanced the cancer, the higher the mortality rate.

Prostate cancer in the localized and regional stages had a 100% 5-year relative survival rate between the years 2013 and 2019.

This decreased to 34% for distant cases — in other words, when the cancer had spread to more distant parts of the body.

Overall, prostate cancer has a low mortality rate.

Doctors will consider several things when deciding on a prognosis.

These include:

  • Your age and overall health
  • Whether the cancer has progressed to other areas of the body
  • The grade of the cancer, which is how abnormal the cells are — a higher grade (also known as a Gleason score) generally has a poorer outlook
  • The prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which is a naturally occurring protein, level of the cancer (a higher PSA level signifies the cancer may grow at a quicker rate)
  • The likely success of treatment

There are plenty of resources online that’ll help you learn more about prostate cancer and receive advice and support if you or a loved one has received a diagnosis.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation offers support and guidance for people living with prostate cancer while Zero Prostate Cancer has educational content along with in-person and online peer groups.

You can also find out more about living with prostate cancer from the American Cancer Society and connect with others in the same position via CancerCare.

Lauren Sharkey is a U.K.-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraines, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.