Types of prostate cancer

The type of prostate cancer tells you which type of cell the cancer started in. There are different types of prostate cancer. The most common type is adenocarcinoma of the prostate.

Doctors use the information about your prostate cancer type along with:

  • how abnormal the cancer cells look under the microscope. This is the grade of the cancer
  • the size of the cancer and whether it has spread. This is the stage

This helps your doctor decide which treatment you need. Another way doctors may describe your cancer is as localised, locally advanced or advanced. 

Adenocarcinoma of the prostate

Adenocarcinomas develop in the gland cells that line the prostate gland and the tubes of the prostate gland. Gland cells make prostate fluid.

Adenocarcinomas are the most common type of prostate cancer. Nearly everyone with prostate cancer has this type. 

There are 2 types of adenocarcinoma of the prostate:

Acinar adenocarcinoma of the prostate

Most people have this type. It develops in the gland cells that line the prostate gland.

Ductal adenocarcinoma of the prostate

Ductal adenocarcinoma starts in the cells that line the tubes (ducts) of the prostate gland. It tends to grow and spread more quickly than acinar adenocarcinoma.

Transitional cell carcinoma of the prostate

Transitional cell carcinoma of the prostate starts in the cells that line the tube carrying urine to the outside of the body (the urethra). This type of cancer usually starts in the bladder and spreads into the prostate. But rarely it can start in the prostate and may spread into the bladder entrance and nearby tissues.

This is sometimes called urothelial carcinoma of the prostate. Between 2 and 4 out of 100 prostate cancers (between 2 and 4%) are this type. 

Diagram showing the position of the prostate and rectum

Squamous cell carcinoma of the prostate

These cancers develop from flat cells that cover the prostate. They tend to grow and spread more quickly than adenocarcinoma of the prostate.

Small cell prostate cancer

Small cell prostate cancer can also be classed as a type of neuroendocrine cancer. They tend to grow more quickly than other types of prostate cancer.

Other rarer types of prostate cancers

Other rarer cancers can develop in the prostate, these include:

  • sarcoma
  • lymphoma
  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (11th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Wolters Kluwer, 2019

  • The 2016 WHO Classification of tumours of the urinary system and male genital organs – Part B: prostate and bladder tumours
    P Humphrey and others
    European Urology, 2016. Vol 70, Issue 1

  • Ductal adenocarcinoma of the prostate: increased mortality risk and decreased PSA secretion
    T Morgan and others
    Journal of Urology, 2010. Vol 184, Issue 6. Pages 2303-2307

  • Beyond prostate adenocarcinoma: expanding the differential diagnosis in prostate pathologic conditions
    Y Li and others
    Radiological Society of North America, 2016. Vol 36, No 4

  • Clinical features, treatment, prognosis and outcome of 47 patients with pure squamous cell carcinoma of the prostate
    D Brunnhoelzl and J Wang
    Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2018. Vol 36, supplement 6

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact patientinformation@cancer.org.uk with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.

Last reviewed: 
27 Apr 2022
Next review due: 
27 Apr 2025

Related links