A new study raises additional questions about the benefits of drugs given to more than half of prostate cancer patients. Hormone therapy, which blocks the production of the testosterone that feeds prostate tumors, is a mainstay of treatment for men with advanced disease. Studies show it also improves survival in patients with aggressive tumors that are still limited to the prostate.
Doctors also sometimes use hormones in men with early prostate cancer to shrink a tumor, making it easier to kill with radioactive seeds.
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There's no evidence to show that hormones help patients with slow-growing or "low-risk" tumors, says lead author Amy Dosoretz, who presented the paper at a meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology in Boston on Tuesday.
And in the past two years, studies have suggested that hormone therapy increases the risks of heart attacks and diabetes. Now, in a study of 1,707 prostate cancer patients, Dosoretz found that men over age 70 given hormones before their seed implants had a 20% higher risk of death than patients who treated only with the implants. After five years, 19.1% of those who took hormones died, compared to 16.6% of those who didn't get hormones.