Prostate cancer treatment overused in some older patients: study

February 27, 2012, Yale University

Treatment is not always warranted for older men with prostate cancer and a short life expectancy, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in the Feb. 27 Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Treatment can do more harm than good in some instances," said senior author on the study Cary Gross, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine at Yale School of Medicine. "Among men who are older and have less aggressive forms of , their cancer is unlikely to progress or cause them harm in their remaining years."

Gross and his team analyzed nine years of and found that over the past decade, there has been a trend towards higher use of for prostate cancer among men with certain types of tumors and a short life expectancy. The study included 39,270 patients between the ages of 67 and older.

These results suggest that cancer treatment was increasingly aggressive in patients who had the lowest likelihood of seeing clinical benefits, Gross said, noting that while not treating potentially fatal cancer can reflect poor-quality care, aggressively managing disease that is unlikely to progress puts patients at risk for complications and increases costs without medical benefits.

"We found that the percentage of men who received treatment for their prostate cancer treatments increased over time from 61.2% to 67.6% from 1998 through 2007," said Gross, who is a member of Yale Cancer Center. "However, we were surprised to find that the biggest increase was among men with moderate-risk prostate cancer who had the shortest life expectancy. On the other hand, decreased among men with low-risk tumors and longer life expectancy."

Treating patients with shorter life expectancy may add costs or complications without contributing to quality of life, he said. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network practice guidelines in oncology recommend actively monitoring patients as an alternative to medication for patients with less aggressive tumor types and shorter life expectancies.

Gross said that the use of cancer therapies should be guided by clinical evidence and patient preferences. "Future work should explore how better to incorporate both cancer characteristics and patient into decision making," said Gross.

Explore further: Age a big factor in prostate cancer deaths

More information: Arch. Inter. Med. Vol. 172, No. 4 (February 27, 2012)

Related Stories

Age a big factor in prostate cancer deaths

October 19, 2011
Contrary to common belief, men age 75 and older are diagnosed with late-stage and more aggressive prostate cancer and thus die from the disease more often than younger men, according to a University of Rochester analysis ...

More aggressive treatment not necessary for men with a family history of prostate cancer

October 5, 2011
Approximately 10-20 percent of prostate cancer patients have a family history of the disease. There are three major factors that are used to evaluate the extent and aggressiveness of prostate cancer, help make treatment decisions, ...

Queen's pioneers prostate cancer breakthrough

September 19, 2011
Scientists at Queen's University have pioneered a new combination treatment for prostate cancer. The treatment, which has been successful in phase one of trials, will now be tested for efficacy in a second phase.

Recommended for you

Researchers create a drug to extend the lives of men with prostate cancer

March 16, 2018
Fifteen years ago, Michael Jung was already an eminent scientist when his wife asked him a question that would change his career, and extend the lives of many men with a particularly lethal form of prostate cancer.

Machine-learning algorithm used to identify specific types of brain tumors

March 15, 2018
An international team of researchers has used methylation fingerprinting data as input to a machine-learning algorithm to identify different types of brain tumors. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the team ...

Higher doses of radiation don't improve survival in prostate cancer

March 15, 2018
A new study shows that higher doses of radiation do not improve survival for many patients with prostate cancer, compared with the standard radiation treatment. The analysis, which included 104 radiation therapy oncology ...

Joint supplement speeds melanoma cell growth

March 15, 2018
Chondroitin sulfate, a dietary supplement taken to strengthen joints, can speed the growth of a type of melanoma, according to experiments conducted in cell culture and mouse models.

Improved capture of cancer cells in blood could help track disease

March 15, 2018
Tumor cells circulating throughout the body in blood vessels have long been feared as harbingers of metastasizing cancer - even though most free-floating cancer cells will not go on to establish a new tumor.

Area surrounding a tumor impacts how breast cancer cells grow

March 14, 2018
Cancer is typically thought of as a tumor that needs to be removed or an area that needs to be treated with radiation or chemotherapy. As a physicist and cancer researcher, Joe Gray, Ph.D., thinks differently.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.