Prostates and profits: The social construction of benign prostatic hyperplasia in American men

Thomas McDade*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is clinically diagnosed in approximately three-fourths of American men, a prevalence two to three times higher than that currently reported in Scotland and Japan. Prostatectomy is the most common operation performed on American men over 65. A critical medical anthropological analysis reveals that American urologists rely on prostatectomy to maintain their practices, and the growth of urology as a specialty is significantly related to the 50% increase in the rate of surgery since 1965. Marketing campaigns and studies funded by pharmaceutical companies promote the perception of urinary difficulties as problematic, encourage men to medicalize their symptoms, and create demand for drug therapy and urologist treatment. The social construction of BPH as a progressive age-related disorder and the profit orientation of American medicine account for the elevated prevalence of BPH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalMedical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996


  • Critical medical anthropology
  • Cultural construction of disease
  • Overtreatment
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Prostate
  • Urology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology


Dive into the research topics of 'Prostates and profits: The social construction of benign prostatic hyperplasia in American men'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this