Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in this group. We have found that interleukin (IL)-6 protein concentrations are increased approximately 18-fold in clinically localized prostate cancers when compared to normal prostate tissue. Normal and neoplastic prostatic epithelial cells in culture, with the exception of LNCaP cells, secrete IL-6. Addition of exogenous IL-6 to primary epithelial cells in culture or the LNCaP prostate cancer cell line leads to phosphorylation of Stat-3 and increases in net cell proliferation. The concentration of IL-6 receptor is increased eightfold in the prostate cancer tissues and is increased in the cancer cells by immunohistochemistry. The increased expression of IL-6 receptor is correlated with increased proliferation of prostate cancer cells in vivo as assessed by Ki67 immunohistochemistry. These findings strongly support the hypothesis that IL-6 acts as a significant autocrine growth factor in vivo for primary, androgen-dependent prostate cancers.