Prostate cancer cases to double between 2020 and 2040, deaths to rise by 85 percent: Lancet study

They said ageing populations and improving life expectancy will lead to more cases of prostate cancer in older men.


Published Apr 05, 2024 | 7:27 PM Updated Apr 05, 2024 | 7:29 PM


Prostate cancer cases worldwide are projected to more than double and deaths are expected to increase by 85 percent between 2020 and 2040, according to The Lancet Commission on Prostate Cancer.

It said that low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are likely to bear the “overwhelming brunt” of this spike

The surge in cases is “inevitable”, with actual numbers likely to be much higher because of under-diagnosis and missed opportunities for data collection in LMICs, researchers said.

They said ageing populations and improving life expectancy will lead to more cases of prostate cancer in older men, and given that being 50 years or older is a risk factor, lifestyle changes and public health interventions may not be able to prevent the upcoming surge.

“As more and more men around the world live to middle and old age, there will be an inevitable rise in the number of prostate cancer cases. We know this surge in cases is coming, so we need to start planning and take action now,” said lead author of the commission, Nick James, professor of prostate and bladder cancer research at The Institute of Cancer Research, London.

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Calls for evidence-based interventions

The commission called for evidence-based interventions, including early detection and diagnosis, along with education and awareness programmes, to help save lives from prostate cancer in the coming years.

“This is especially true for low- and middle-income countries which will bear the overwhelming brunt of future cases,” said James.

The authors called for improving the “poor” levels of awareness in LMICs about the dangers and symptoms of metastatic prostate cancer, such as bone pain, among men and their families.

“One of the common pains in prostate cancer comes from spine metastasis, where the cancer spreads to the spine. While this usually presents in the later stages of the disease, it could even be the presenting symptom. Other pains may be associated with urination or treatment, such as post-surgical or chemotherapy-induced pain,” said pain specialist Dr Lakshmi Vas, director of the Ashirvad Institute for Pain Management and Research, Mumbai.

Similarly, there is a low general awareness that treatments available in LMICs can prolong survival and decrease suffering, including cheap, effective ones such as hormone therapy.

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Advocates consulting pain specialist

Acknowledging the “fear of suffering” that comes with a cancer diagnosis, Vas advocated for consulting with a pain specialist.

“The greatest fear is the suffering associated with cancer and patient education in this regard is very vital. I strongly suggest that right after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, make an appointment with a pain specialist. This way the patients can be reassured that pain management is possible whatever the stage of cancer might be, and also for other pains that come with cancer treatments. Forewarned is forearmed, after all,” said Vas.

As with early diagnostic capacity, there is a need to scale up availability and improve access to treatments for advanced disease in LMICs, the authors said.

Globally, the study estimated yearly cases of prostate cancer to be 14 lakh and yearly deaths due to the disease to stand at 3.75 lakh in 2020. The prostate cancer cases are projected to rise to 29 lakh a year and almost seven lakh prostate cancer deaths a year by 2040.

The commission includes researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an inter-governmental agency forming part of the World Health Organisation.

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