BACKGROUND: Expression of periostin is an indicator of epithelial-mesenchymal transition in cancer but a detailed analysis of periostin expression in prostate cancer has not been conducted so far. METHODS: Here, we evaluated periostin expression in prostate cancer cells and peritumoural stroma immunohistochemically in two independent prostate cancer cohorts, including a training cohort (n = 93) and a test cohort (n = 325). Metastatic prostate cancers (n = 20), hormone refractory prostate cancers (n = 19) and benign prostatic tissues (n = 38) were also analyzed. RESULTS: In total, strong epithelial periostin expression was detectable in 142 of 418 (34.0%) of prostate carcinomas and in 11 of 38 benign prostate glands (28.9%). Increased periostin expression in carcinoma cells was significantly associated with high Gleason score (p < 0.01) and advanced tumour stage (p < 0.05) in the test cohort. Whereas periostin expression was weak or absent in the stroma around normal prostate glands, strong periostin expression in tumour stroma was found in most primary and metastatic prostate cancers. High stromal periostin expression was associated with higher Gleason scores (p < 0.001). There was a relationship between stromal periostin expression and shortened PSA relapse free survival times in the training cohort (p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate that periostin up-regulation is related to increased tumour aggressiveness in prostate cancer and might be a promising target for therapeutical interventions in primary and metastatic prostate cancer.