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ABSTRACT: The objective of this study was to evaluate the risk factors of biochemical recurrence in patients with prostate cancer treated by retropubic prostatectomy. Retrospective analysis of 121 consecutive retropubic radical prostatectomies performed between January 1994 and December 1997. Biochemical recurrence was defined by PSA > or = 0.2 ng/ml. Biochemical recurrence-free survival rates were calculated by the actuarial method. Univariate and multivariate analysis of prognostic factors of biochemical recurrence was performed. The actuarial biochemical recurrence-free survival was 71% at 5 year and 63% at 7.5 years. Kaplan-Meier analysis did not reveal any difference for the risk of biochemical recurrence between patients with doubtful margins and those with positive margins. These two groups were therefore combined. Significant risk factors on univariate analysis were: pathological stage, grade of the predominant cell contingent on the specimen, margins, highest cell grade on biopsies, clinical stage, PSA level, perineural invasion and Gleason score. Significant risk factors for biochemical recurrence on multivariate analysis were: pathological stage, PSA > 10 ng/ml, the highest grade on biopsies, positive margins and perineural invasion. Doubtful margins and positive margins appear to be associated with the same risk of biochemical recurrence. The prognostic value of Gleason grade on the specimen is higher than that of the Gleason score. A high Gleason grade on biopsies is associated with a particularly poor prognosis.