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Older Prostate Cancer Patients Might Be Overtreated: Study

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors may not benefit from prostate cancer treatment, according to a new study that found aggressive therapy has become more common among men with short life expectancies and less aggressive forms of the disease.

"Treatment can do more harm than good in some instances," senior study author Dr. Cary Gross, an associate professor of internal medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, said in a university news release. "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."

The researchers used Medicare records to examine information on more than 39,000 men with prostate cancer aged 67 and older. The study, published Feb. 27 in Archives of Internal Medicine, found increasingly intensive treatment among older patients puts them at risk for complications and reduced quality of life. And it needlessly drives up health care costs, the study authors noted.

The percentage of men who received treatment for prostate cancer rose from slightly over 61 percent to nearly 68 percent from 1998 through 2007, the investigators found.

"However, we were surprised to find that the biggest increase was among men with moderate-risk prostate cancer who had the shortest life expectancy," said Gross, who is a member of Yale Cancer Center. "On the other hand, cancer treatment decreased among men with low-risk tumors and longer life expectancy."

Cancer treatment should be tailored to meet the needs of individual patients, the researchers concluded. "Future work should explore how better to incorporate both cancer characteristics and patient life expectancy into decision making," Gross said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about prostate cancer treatment.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Yale University, news release, Feb. 27, 2012

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