This review focuses on new findings and controversial issues in the the pathology and molecular biology of adenocarcinoma of the prostate. Since management of high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia on needle biopsy--the most common precursor lesion to prostate cancer--is the crucial issue with this lesion, we discuss the risk of cancer subsequent to this histological diagnosis and the issue of whether such neoplasia should be regarded as carcinoma-in-situ. We also look at prostate cancer itself, starting with its diagnosis, reporting on needle biopsy, and reviewing how the most frequently used grading system, the Gleason grading system, affects treatment. The molecular basis of prostate cancer includes inheritable and somatic genetic changes (tumour suppressor genes, loss of heterozygosity, gene targets and regions of chromosomal gain, CpG island promoter methylation, invasion and metastasis suppressor genes, telomere shortening, and genetic instability). Changed gene expression (eg, proliferation-related genes, changes in the androgen receptor, apoptosis and stress-response genes) have potential as biomarkers and therapeutic targets in prostate cancer.