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What causes an enlarged prostate?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

In most men, the prostate gland continues to grow throughout their lives, but it may not become enlarged. While there are several theories, the exact cause of enlarged prostate isn't known. Some believe that the growth could be the result of a rise in the ratio of estrogen to testosterone in the blood of older men. Others think that it might be the result of a substance called DHT that is made from testosterone building up in the prostate. Still others think that it has to do with dormant cells in the prostate suddenly become active later in life.

The prostate is normally about the size and shape of a walnut and weighs about 20 grams (less than 1 ounce). As men age, the prostate gradually increases in size. Generally, the prostate does not grow beyond about twice its normal size because the outer capsule of the gland restricts expansion. Because of this restriction, further tissue growth compresses against the inside of the gland, which can constrict the urethra and cause urinary symptoms.

Prostate enlargement appears to be a normal process because it is so common. The only factor that can prevent prostate enlargement from eventually occurring is the elimination of testosterone. Men who have had their testicles removed or have had diseases that left them unable to produce testosterone do not develop benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) -- enlarged prostate -- or prostate cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.