Watchful waiting

While we’re on the topic of misguided decisions, here’s confirmation of another common mistake I’m always warning you about. And proof positive that, when it comes to cancer treatment, sometimes less really is more.

A new cohort study out of UCLA showed that surgery or radiation therapy aren’t always the best choices for men up against prostate cancer–especially if they’re dealing with other health issues.

Researchers looked at the 14-year survival outcomes of 3,000 older men diagnosed with prostate cancer in the mid-90s.

Results showed that the risk of dying from low- or intermediate-grade prostate cancer was just three percent among patients between the ages of 61 and 74. That figure jumped only slightly to seven percent among patients over 75.

In cases of high-risk prostate cancer, the 14-year death risk was considerably higher, at 18 percent. But that’s still a low number, compared to the risk associated with other causes of death.

In fact, the 10-year mortality risk from other causes was 40 percent among men 61 to 74 years old. And it was even higher, at 71 percent, among men over 75.

This risk was especially high among men with at least three other health conditions–like diabetes, hypertension, heart failure, arthritis. All of which are common issues, to say the least.

Just as I said last week in regards to Angelina Jolie’s “pre-emptive” double mastectomy–surgery isn’t always the answer. In fact, it has the power to make things a whole lot worse. In the case of prostate cancer, surgery can cause life-altering issues ranging from incontinence to erectile dysfunction.

And for a disease that isn’t likely to kill you anytime soon, that’s anything but a small price to pay.

Effect of Age, Tumor Risk, and Comorbidity on Competing Risks for Survival in a U.S. Population-Based Cohort of Men With Prostate Cancer. Ann Intern Med. 2013 May 21;158(10):709-17.