New data on prostate cancer mortality rates is good information for men to know, but it may not make decisions about treatment any easier. Furthermore, the new research probably won’t end the longstanding debate in the medical community questioning the use of PSA screening for the cancer or whether or not to even treat the disease in some men.
According to the new study, if you have prostate cancer you have about an 11% chance that you’ll die from it. The odds are more likely that’s you’ll die of something else--like cardiovascular disease.
The study authors say their research reinforces the idea that the key to longevity is embracing an overall healthy lifestyle--like eating a balanced diet, managing your weight, getting regular exercise, and not smoking.
The study used data from the U.S. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program and the Swedish Cancer and Cause of Death registries to analyze the causes of death among more than 700,000 men. The U.S. data was for 1973-2008 and the Swedish data covered 1961-2008.
- Over these periods, 52% of the Swedish men with prostate cancer died and 30% of American men with prostate cancer in the study.
- Of these deaths, only 35% of the Swedish men died directly from prostate cancer and only 16% of American men died from the disease itself, the investigators found.
- As the study continued, fewer men died from prostate cancer while deaths from heart disease remained the same.
- By the last five years of the study, 29% of Swedish men with prostate cancer died from it as did 11% of American men, the researchers calculated.
- Deaths from prostate cancer varied by age and year of diagnosis. The most deaths were among older men and among men diagnosed before screening for PSA began, they added.
When doctors were asked to comment on the study findings, opinions varied widely. Some believe the study is justification for screening only high-risk men for prostate cancer, which includes African-American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer. Others like Dr. Durado Brooks, director of prostate and colon cancer at the American Cancer Society, argue against PSA screening saying that it too often "leads down the path of unnecessary treatment."
"Men should understand that not every prostate cancer needs to be found and every prostate cancer that's found does not necessarily need to be treated," he said.
With such diverse opinions in the medical community, it’s easy to see why men need all the information available to make a decision about their health. There just isn’t a clear-cut answer on this issue.