Prostate Cancer: Exploring the Risk of Prostate Radiotherapy


 Results of a recent study published in Medscape Medical News assessed the effect of treatment with radiotherapy on patients who have prostate cancer that is localized. Statistics show that these patients have a somewhat elevated risk of getting another primary cancer when compared to prostate cancer patients who did not have radiotherapy.

The risk to the radiotherapy cohort registered at 3.7% versus the nonradiotherapy group at 2.7%. Noting the slight difference in risk, Dr. Hilary Bagshaw, lead author of the study from Stanford’s Cancer Institute, told Medscape that physicians should not be deterred in suggesting radiotherapy to their patients.

About the Study

 JAMA Network Open also published the study online in its July 28th issue.

The study was conducted to clarify many conflicting reports resulting from the exposure of organs such as the rectum or bladder to significant radiation.

From the year 2000 through 2015, using the VA Corporate Data Warehouse, Dr. Bagshaw and her colleagues identified approximately one hundred forty thousand men who were in treatment for stage T1-T3 localized prostate cancer.

Dr. Bagshaw reminds readers that the results of the current study are more in line with today’s methods used for the treatment of prostate cancer versus many of the radiation techniques used in older studies.

The Numbers

Second primary cancers include lymphoma, rectal cancer, leukemia, and bladder cancer.

At the final count, 37% (N=4257) of the men were given radiotherapy while 63% were not. At the one-year mark after the diagnosis of prostate cancer, 3.0% had a secondary primary cancer. There was an increased risk after five years.

Looking at ten to fifteen years, there is a 59% increase in the risk for secondary primary cancer. Then the risk is reduced to 47% at 15 to 20 years.

Dr. David Byun at NYU Langone expressed his opinion that the study provided an update on the potential adverse effects of prostate-directed radiation therapy.

However, Dr. Byun specifically referenced the VA data as not representing the general population. A second limitation noted by Dr. Byun was the fact that various forms of radiotherapy may have been used by the VA in the period recorded by the study.

Dr. Byun said that these are critical questions and they may not be easily resolved without data on VA protocol that involves treatment.


Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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