Forty patients with prostatic carcinoma or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) underwent magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of the prostate. In vitro MR images of six prostate specimens were also obtained. The prostatic parenchyma was best evaluated by a T2-weighted spin-echo pulse sequence. The prostate both in patients with prostatic carcinoma and patients with BPH often had an inhomogeneous and nodular appearance on T2-weighted images. While most of the prostatic carcinomas appeared hyperintense relative to muscle and adjacent prostatic parenchyma, some of the hyperplastic nodules had a signal intensity similar to carcinoma. With current imaging techniques, MR imaging cannot differentiate prostatic carcinoma from BPH with certainty.