Prostate cancer treatment overused in some older patients

March 21, 2012

Treatment is still overused in older men with prostate cancer and a short life expectancy, say the authors of a study from Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.

Treatment is still overused in older men with prostate cancer and a short life expectancy, say the authors of a study from Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.

"Treatment can do more harm than good in some instances," said senior author Cary Gross, MD. "Among men who are older and have less aggressive forms of prostate cancer, their cancer is unlikely to progress or cause them harm in their remaining years."

Dr. Gross and colleagues analyzed 9 years of Medicare data and found that over the past decade, there has been a trend toward higher use of curative treatment for prostate cancer among men with certain types of tumors and a short life expectancy. The study, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2012; 172:362-3), included 39,270 patients aged 67 years and older.

These results suggest that cancer treatment was increasingly aggressive in patients who had the lowest likelihood of seeing clinical benefits, Dr. Gross said.

"We found that the percentage of men who received treatment for their prostate cancer increased over time from 61.2% to 67.6% from 1998 through 2007," said Dr. Gross. "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, cancer treatment decreased among men with low-risk tumors and longer life expectancy."

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