Prostate Cancer Treatment Questioned
A new study is casting doubt on an increasingly popular therapy for prostate cancer -- the second most common cancer and second most common cause of cancer death among men.
Typically, men who are diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer undergo surgery or radiation or simply keep an eye on the cancer to see if it progresses. Often, prostate cancer never causes problems. But doctors are increasingly using a therapy called "androgen deprivation therapy." It usually involves giving men drugs to cut their levels of testosterone, which fuels the growth of prostate cancer.
A survey conducted in 1999 to 2001 found that the treatment has become the second most common approach, after surgery, for prostate cancer. However, its effectiveness is unclear.
In the new study, Grace Lu-Yao of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Jersey and her colleagues studied 19,271 men age 66 and older who were diagnosed with prostate cancer between 1992 and 2002 before their cancer had spread, including 7,867 who received the hormone treatment.
Compared with those who received other types of treatment, such as "watchful waiting," those who underwent the hormone therapy were actually slightly more likely to die from prostate cancer in the next decade. Nearly 20 percent of those who underwent the treatment died from prostate cancer compared to about 17 percent of those who did not. In addition, their overall chances of surviving over the next 10 years were no better, the researchers reported in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Because the therapy can cause serious side effects, such as osteoporosis, hot flashes and impotence, the researchers conclude doctors should think carefully before recommending the approach. It's unclear if the findings would also apply to younger men.
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