Objectives: The surgical margin status after radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer has long been considered a powerful prognostic factor, as well as an important risk factor for local recurrent disease after radical prostatectomy. In this study, a critical analysis of the predictive value of the surgical margin status was performed. Methods: A well-described cohort of 281 participants of a population-based randomized screening trial who underwent radical prostatectomy between 1994 and 2000 was analyzed. Besides pathologic tumor stage, Gleason score, percentage of high-grade cancer, and tumor volume, the prognostic value of the surgical margin status for disease outcome (prostate-specific antigen [PSA] relapse, local recurrence) was statistically evaluated. Specifically, site ('apical' or 'circumferential') and extent of surgical margin negativity ('negative', or 'close') or positivity ('focal' or 'extensive') was assessed. Results: At a median follow-up of 7 yr (range, 5-120 mo), 39 (13.9%) and 7 (2.5%) men had biochemical failure (PSA ≥0.1 ng/ml), and local relapse, respectively. The surgical margin status was positive in 66 (23.5%), with 26 (9.3%) at the prostatic apex. The margin status was an independent statistically significant risk factor for biochemical relapse, though not for local relapse. Of those with positive margins, 22 (33.3%) had PSA relapse and 4 (6.1%) had local recurrence, whereas these figures were 17 (7.9%) and 3 (1.4%) for those with a negative surgical margin, respectively. The extent of margin positivity was not predictive of PSA relapse nor was the site of the surgical margin. Conclusions: In surgically treated prostate cancer, the surgical margin status has, although being a statistically significant prognostic factor, only limited predictive value for PSA relapse and local recurrent disease. The majority of men with (extensive) positive surgical margins will not experience PSA relapse nor local disease progression, even in absence of adjuvant radiotherapy. So, cases with a positive margin of resection may still be cured, although the procedure in itself was not 'radical'.