Epidermal growth factor (EGF)-related polypeptides may be involved in the growth of human prostate cancer cells, and in the androgen stimulation of hormone-responsive prostatic carcinomas. We have shown that androgen-responsive LNCaP cells, like the autonomous DU 145 human prostate cancer cell line, synthesize and secrete EGF and related polypeptides, including immunoreactive transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF-alpha). As determined by radioimmunoassay, intracellular EGF levels were approximately 100 times those of TGF-alpha, but together these accounted for less than half of the total EGF-like polypeptides detected in a radioreceptor assay. Although LNCaP cell growth was stimulated by dihydrotestosterone (DHT), there was no evident effect on immunoreactive EGF levels in the medium after correction for cell number. Moreover, metabolic labeling experiments showed no effect of the androgen on EGF synthesis by LNCaP cells. Gel filtration chromatography of conditioned medium showed both high molecular weight species and the mature 6,000 dalton form of immunoreactive EGF. We conclude that although LNCaP prostate cancer cell growth is stimulated by DHT, it is unlikely that it is mediated directly via increased EGF synthesis by the tumor cells.