Objectives To examine the rate of prostate cancer detection in three large randomized placebo-controlled benign prostatic hyperplasia trials of dutasteride. Dutasteride, which lowers serum dihydrotestosterone more than 93% by inhibiting type 1 and type 2 5-alpha-reductase, is effective in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. However, its effect on the development of prostate cancer is unknown. Methods A total of 4325 men with benign prostatic hyperplasia but without a history, or evidence, of prostate cancer, and a serum prostate-specific antigen level of 1.5 to 10 ng/mL, were randomized to 0.5 mg/day dutasteride or placebo for 24 months. The prostate cancer detection rates for subjects were determined by non-protocol-mandated biopsies, either during the double-blind phase of the study or during the first 3 months of the open-label extension. A follow-up questionnaire was administered to a subset of consenting subjects to ascertain the number, outcomes, and reasons for the prostate biopsies. Results The cumulative incidence of prostate cancer as an adverse event was significantly lower in the dutasteride versus placebo group at 24 months (1.1% versus 1.9%, P = 0.025) and 27 months (1.2% versus 2.5%, P = 0.002). There were no differences in the diagnosis rates of prostate cancer during the first 15 months, after which time the detection rate of prostate cancer increased in the placebo group and remained low in the dutasteride group. Conclusions Prostate cancer detection was significantly lower in subjects randomized to dutasteride compared with the placebo group. These results have prompted the initiation of the Reduction by Dutasteride of Prostate Cancer Events (REDUCE) study, which was designed and powered to test the hypothesis that treatment with dutasteride decreases the incidence and progression of prostate cancer.