Older men with early-stage, localized prostate cancer live longer if the disease is treated with radiation or surgery instead of simply waiting and watching it, as is often recommended, a study published Tuesday said.
Researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia said they found that patients whose cancer was treated had a 31% lower risk of death during the 12 years they were tracked than those who did nothing.
Even though the disease develops slowly, the study "suggests a reduced risk of mortality associated with active treatment for low and intermediate risk prostate cancer in the elderly ... population examined."
The report, published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Assn., added: "These results must be validated by rigorous randomized controlled trials of elderly men with localized prostate cancer before the findings can be used to inform treatment decisions."
The disease is the most common cancer afflicting men in the United States. Because it can be detected by a blood test, there are increasing numbers of cases being diagnosed, the study noted.
Waiting and monitoring the growth of tumors is considered one option, especially for older men who have a higher risk of dying from something else, given that the disease progresses slowly. But the new study found that even men 75 to 80 benefited from treatment.
The report was based on the medical records of more than 44,000 men 65 to 80 who were diagnosed with the disease between 1991 and 1999 and who had survived more than a year after diagnosis.
The study concluded at the end of 2002.