Purpose The diagnosis of prostate transition zone cancer (PTZC) remains a clinical challenge due to their similarity to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) on MRI. The Deep Convolutional Neural Networks (DCNNs) showed high efficacy in diagnosing PTZC on medical imaging but was limited by the small data size. A transfer learning (TL) method was combined with deep learning to overcome this challenge. Materials and methods A retrospective investigation was conducted on 217 patients enrolled from our hospital database (208 patients) and The Cancer Imaging Archive (nine patients). Using T2-weighted images (T2WIs) and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) maps, DCNN models were trained and compared between different TL databases (ImageNet vs. disease-related images) and protocols (from scratch, fine-tuning, or transductive transferring). Results PTZC and BPH can be classified through traditional DCNN. The efficacy of TL from natural images was limited but improved by transferring knowledge from the disease-related images. Furthermore, transductive TL from disease-related images had comparable efficacy to the fine-tuning method. Limitations include retrospective design and a relatively small sample size. Conclusion Deep TL from disease-related images is a powerful tool for an automated PTZC diagnostic system. In developing regions where only conventional MR scans are available, the accurate diagnosis of PTZC can be achieved via transductive deep TL from disease-related images.Copyright © 2021, Hu et al.