The prostate (from Greek προστάτης - prostates, literally "one who stands before", "protector", "guardian") is a compound tubuloalveolar exocrine gland of the male reproductive system in most mammals.
In 2002, female paraurethral glands, or Skene's glands, were officially
renamed the female prostate by the Federative International Committee on Anatomical Terminology.
The prostate differs considerably among species anatomically, chemically,
The function of the prostate is to secrete a slightly alkaline fluid, milky or white in appearance, that usually constitutes 20–30% of the volume
of the semen along with spermatozoa and seminal vesicle fluid. The
alkalinity of semen helps neutralize the acidity of the vaginal tract, prolonging the lifespan of sperm. The alkalinization of semen is primarily  The prostatic accomplished through secretion from the seminal vesicles.fluid is expelled in the first ejaculate fractions, together with most
of the spermatozoa. In comparison with the few spermatozoa expelled together with mainly seminal vesicular fluid, those expelled in prostatic
motility, longer survival and better protection of the fluid have better
genetic material (DNA).
The prostate also contains some smooth muscles that help expel semen
Prostatic secretions vary among species. They are generally composed of simple sugars and are often slightly alkaline.
In human prostatic secretions, the protein content is less than 1% and includes proteolytic enzymes, prostatic acid phosphatase,
beta-microseminoprotein, and prostate-specific antigen. The secretions
also contain zinc with a concentration 500–1,000 times the concentration
To work properly, the prostate needs male hormones (testosterones), which
are responsible for male sex characteristics.
The main male hormone is testosterone, which is produced mainly by the
testicles. Some male hormones are produced in small amounts by the adrenal
glands. However, it is dihydrotestosterone that regulates the prostate.
The prostatic part of the urethra develops from the pelvic (middle) part
of the urogenital sinus (endodermal origin). Endodermal outgrowths arise
from the prostatic part of the urethra and grow into the surrounding mesenchyme. The glandular epithelium of the prostate differentiates from these endodermal cells, and the associated mesenchyme differentiates into the dense stroma and the smooth muscle of the prostate. The prostate
glands represent the modified wall of the proximal portion of the male urethra and arises by the 9th week of embryonic life in the development
of the reproductive system. Condensation of mesenchyme, urethra and
Wolffian ducts gives rise to the adult prostate gland, a composite organ made up of several glandular and non-glandular components tightly fused. Female prostate gland
The Skene's gland, also known as the paraurethral gland, found in females, is homologous to the prostate gland in males. However, anatomically, the uterus is in the same position as the prostate gland. In 2002 the Skene's gland was officially renamed to female prostate by the Federative . International Committee on Anatomical Terminology
The female prostate, like the male prostate, secretes PSA and levels of
this antigen rise in the presence of carcinoma of the gland. The gland also expels fluid, like the male prostate, during orgasm.
Micrograph of benign prostatic glands with corpora amylacea. H&E stain.
Urinary bladder (black butterfly-like shape) and hyperplastic prostate (BPH) visualized by Medical ultrasonography technique
A healthy human prostate is classically said to be slightly larger than a walnut. The mean weight of the "normal" prostate in adult males is about
11 grams, usually ranging between 7 and 16 grams. It surrounds the
urethra just below the urinary bladder and can be felt during a rectal
exam. It is the only exocrine organ located in the midline in humans and similar animals.
The secretory epithelium is mainly pseudostratified, comprising tall columnar cells and basal cells which are supported by a fibroelastic stroma containing randomly orientated smooth muscle bundles. The epithelium is highly variable and areas of low cuboidal or squamous epithelium are also present, with transitional epithelium in the distal regions of the longer ducts. Within the prostate, the urethra coming from the bladder is called the prostatic urethra and merges with the two
The prostate does not have a capsule, rather an integral fibromuscular band surrounds it. It is sheathed in the muscles of the pelvic floor, which contract during the ejaculatory process.
The prostate can be divided in two ways: by zone, or by lobe.
The "zone" classification is more often used in pathology. The idea of
"zones" was first proposed by McNeal in 1968. McNeal found that the relatively homogeneous cut surface of an adult prostate in no way resembled "lobes" and thus led to the description of "zones."
The prostate gland has four distinct glandular regions, two of which arise from different segments of the prostatic urethra:
Fraction of Name Description gland
The sub-capsular portion of the
posterior aspect of the prostate gland Peripheral zone Up to 70% in that surrounds the distal urethra. It is
(PZ) young men from this portion of the gland that
~70–80% of prostatic cancers originate.
This zone surrounds the ejaculatory
ducts. The central zone accounts for Approximately Central zone (CZ) roughly 2.5% of prostate cancers 25% normally although these cancers tend to be more
aggressive and more likely to invade the
~10–20% of prostate cancers originate
in this zone. The transition zone
surrounds the proximal urethra and is Transition zone 5% at puberty the region of the prostate gland that (TZ) grows throughout life and is
responsible for the disease of benign prostatic enlargement. (2)
This zone is usually devoid of glandular Anterior Approximately components, and composed only, as its fibro-muscular 5% name suggests, of muscle and fibrous zone (or stroma) tissue.
Prostate with a large median lobe bulging upwards. A metal instrument is
placed in the urethra which passes through the prostate. This specimen was almost 7 centimeters long with a volume of about 60 cubic centimetres
on transrectal ultrasound and was removed during a Hryntschak procedure
prostatectomy (removal of the prostate through the or transvesical
bladder) for benign prostatic hyperplasia.
The "lobe" classification is more often used in anatomy.
roughly corresponds to part of transitional Anterior lobe (or isthmus) zone
Posterior lobe roughly corresponds to peripheral zone
Lateral lobes spans all zones
Median lobe (or middle roughly corresponds to part of central zone lobe)
Main article: Prostatitis
Micrograph showing an inflamed prostate gland, the histologic correlate
of prostatitis. A normal non-inflamed prostatic gland is seen on the left of the image. H&E stain.
Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland. There are primarily
four different forms of prostatitis, each with different causes and outcomes. Two relatively uncommon forms, acute prostatitis and chronic bacterial prostatitis, are treated with antibiotics (category I and II,
respectively). Chronic non-bacterial prostatitis or male chronic pelvic pain syndrome (category III), which comprises about 95% of prostatitis diagnoses, is treated by a large variety of modalities including alpha blockers, phytotherapy, physical therapy, psychotherapy, antihistamines, anxiolytics, nerve modulators, surgery, and more. More recently, a
combination of trigger point and psychological therapy has proved effective for category III prostatitis as well. Category IV prostatitis,
relatively uncommon in the general population, is a type of leukocytosis.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia
Main article: Benign prostatic hyperplasia
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) occurs in older men; the prostate
often enlarges to the point where urination becomes difficult. Symptoms include needing to urinate often (frequency) or taking a while to get
started (hesitancy). If the prostate grows too large, it may constrict the urethra and impede the flow of urine, making urination difficult and painful and, in extreme cases, completely impossible.
BPH can be treated with medication, a minimally invasive procedure or,
in extreme cases, surgery that removes the prostate. Minimally invasive procedures include transurethral needle ablation of the prostate (TUNA) and transurethral microwave thermotherapy (TUMT). These outpatient
procedures may be followed by the insertion of a temporary prostatic stent,
to allow normal voluntary urination, without exacerbating irritative symptoms.
The surgery most often used in such cases is called transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP or TUR). In TURP, an instrument is inserted through the urethra to remove prostate tissue that is pressing against the upper part of the urethra and restricting the flow of urine. TURP results in the removal of mostly transitional zone tissue in a patient with BPH. Older men often have corpora amylacea (amyloid), dense
accumulations of calcified proteinaceous material, in the ducts of their
prostates. The corpora amylacea may obstruct the lumens of the prostatic ducts, and may underlie some cases of BPH.
Urinary frequency due to bladder spasm, common in older men, may be confused with prostatic hyperplasia. Statistical observations suggest
that a diet low in fat and red meat and high in protein and vegetables, as well as regular alcohol consumption, could protect against BPH.
Main article: Prostate cancer
Micrograph showing normal prostatic glands and glands of prostate cancer
(prostate adenocarcinoma) - right upper aspect of image. HPS stain.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting older men in
developed countries and a significant cause of death for elderly men
(estimated by some specialists at 3%). Despite this, the American Cancer Society's position regarding early detection is "Research has not yet proven that the potential benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment. The American Cancer Society believes that men should not be tested without learning about what we know and don’t know about the risks and possible benefits of testing and treatment. Starting at age 50, (45 if African American or brother or father suffered from condition before age 65) talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of testing so you can decide if testing is the right choice for you."
If checks are performed, they can be in the form of a physical rectal exam,
measurement of prostate specific antigen (PSA) level in the blood, or
checking for the presence of the protein Engrailed-2 (EN2) in the urine.
Co-researchers Hardev Pandha and Richard Morgan published their findings regarding checking for EN2 in urine in the 1 March 2011 issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research. A laboratory test currently identifies EN2
in urine, and a home test kit is envisioned similar to a home pregnancy test strip. According to Morgan, "We are preparing several large studies in the UK and in the US and although the EN2 test is not yet available, several companies have expressed interest in taking it forward."
Male sexual response
Main article: Prostate massage
During male ejaculation, sperm is transmitted from the ductus deferens into the male urethra via the ejaculatory ducts, which lie within the prostate gland.
Vasectomy and risk of prostate cancer
In 1983, the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed a connection between vasectomy and an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Reported studies of 48,000 and 29,000 men who had vasectomies showed 66 percent and 56 percent higher rates of prostate cancer, respectively. The risk increased with age and the number of years since the vasectomy was performed.
However, in March of the same year, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development held a conference cosponsored by the National Cancer Institute and others to review the available data and information on the link between prostate cancer and vasectomies. It was determined that an association between the two was very weak at best, and even if having a vasectomy increased one's risk, the risk was relatively small. In 1997, the NCI held a conference with the prostate cancer Progressive Review Group (a committee of scientists, medical personnel, and others). Their final report, published in 1998 stated that evidence that vasectomies help to develop prostate cancer was weak at best.
Unclogging a prostate
A surgeon can unclog a blocked prostate by inserting an artificial 'tube' called a stent. Stents can be temporary or permanent. They are inserted into the urethra. This is mostly done on an outpatient basis under local or spinal anesthesia and takes about 30 minutes.