Awareness surrounding prostate health has surged over the past few weeks, with current UK monarch King Charles discharged from hospital today following successful surgery to treat a non-cancerous enlarged prostate.  

Across the pond, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was also reported to be receiving prostate cancer surgery at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. 

On 18 January, NHS England reported that an NHS webpage offering advice on prostate enlargement received 16,410 visits on the day of the Palace announcement that the British monarch had been admitted to hospital, a 1,061% increase from 1,414 visits the previous day. 

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – commonly known as an enlarged prostate, is a condition characterised as a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate, a small gland that surrounds the urethra in males. The condition causes symptoms such as frequent urination or difficulty starting urination.  

There are several types of surgery that can shrink the prostate or widen the urethra; however, the condition can also be treated using drugs. GSK’s Avodart (dutasteride) and Merck & Co’s Proscar (finasteride) are just two approved drugs indicated for the treatment of BPH. Both are alpha-reductase inhibitors that prevent the prostate from increasing in size. There are also several drugs in the pipeline for BPH – including four in Phase III clinical trials.  

BPH can be diagnosed by a variety of tests, including physical examinations and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests. An enlarged prostate does not increase the risk of cancer in men, however men with prostate cancer may also have an enlarged prostate.  

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In the UK, there is no national screening process for prostate cancer due to controversy surrounding overdiagnosis and overtreatment associated with tests.  

While BPH is recognized as a public health concern in developed countries, the number of cases of this condition are also increasing in middle-income and lower-income countries, as per GlobalData analyst Bishal Bhandari, PhD. This is mainly attributed to an aging population and demographic changes. GlobalData epidemiologists forecast that the diagnosed prevalent cases of BPH in the seven major pharmaceutical markets (US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, and Japan) will increase from 16.5 million cases in 2023 to 19.3 million cases in 2031.  

GlobalData is the parent company of Pharmaceutical Technology. 

In the statement released by NHS England, national clinical director Ian Eardley said: “Benign prostate enlargement is common in men over the age of 50 and you would expect around 70-80% over the age of 75 to have an enlarged prostate.”