Surgery can add at least 15 years to the lives of men with prostate cancer, according to research published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
A US study of 12,677 patients who had their prostate glands removed between 1987 and 2005 found that only 12% died from causes directly linked to the cancer.
Most were in their 60s or 70s when diagnosed, meaning that in most cases they lived a normal life span. Half are still living, while 38% died from non-cancer-related conditions.
Because many of the patients had aggressive cancers, the researchers are unsure whether the survival rates were related to surgery, secondary therapies or the low lethality of the cancers.
Some non-aggressive prostate tumours are often slow-growing and may not become dangerous in a patient’s lifetime.
Says Dr Peter Scardino at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York: ‘The importance of this paper is that it shows a remarkably low risk of dying of prostate cancer within 15 years for treated men, and supports the concept that men with slow-growing cancers may not need immediate treatment.’