Researchers at two major medical centers have found that radiation
therapy is just as successful as surgery in treating younger men
with early-stage prostate cancer. Currently, men 60 years old
or under with prostate cancer are far more likely to be treated
with surgery than with radiation therapy.
The two studies were conducted at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia
and Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, California.
Results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society
for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) in Miami Beach,
Fox Chase Study
In the Fox Chase study, cure rates were analyzed for 459 men with
early-stage prostate cancer treated only with radiation therapy.
Those men under the age of 60 have done as well as the older men
up to 5 years after treatment, according to radiation oncologists
Drs. Gerald Hanks and Gary Freedman, research team members.
Dr. Freedman said that, based on the study results, "radiation
therapy shouldn't be discounted as a treatment for early-stage
prostate cancer simply because the patient is a younger man."
Nationwide, from 1984 to 1991 the number of men under the age
of 70 with early-stage prostate cancer undergoing surgery rose
from 22% to 57%, while the number of men having radiation therapy
declined from 35% to 21%, according to Dr. Freedman. "Our
study adds to the body of evidence that radiation therapy offers
an equal chance for cure as surgery in the treatment of early-stage
Based on the results of the Fox Chase study, he added, "we
believe that men of any age can be offered various treatment options
including radiation therapy."
In the Stanford study, meanwhile, patients age 60 or younger with
early-stage prostate cancer who were treated with radiation also
did as well--or better in many cases--than older men treated in
the same manner. Overall, 396 early-stage prostate cancer patients--110
of them age 60 or under--were studied.
The study was based on an average follow-up of 18 years, according
to radiation oncologist Dr. Joseph Poen, a research team member.
"Our study results contradict arguments that radiation therapy
only controls prostate cancer for a limited period of time,"
Dr. Poen said that some physicians believe that younger men who
would normally have a life expectancy greater than 10 years require
surgery for lasting control of the disease. As a result of this
belief, most younger patients have been referred for radical prostatectomy.
But the fact is, the Stanford study shows that radiation therapy
does have long-lasting positive results in treating early-stage
prostate cancer, he said.