Prostatic irradiation doesn't lead to any appreciable increase in rectal cancer risk

Men who receive radiation therapy for prostate cancer are not at any appreciable increased risk of developing rectal cancer compared to those not given radiation therapy, according to a new study published in the July 1, 2006, issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, the official journal of ASTRO, the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.

This year, 235,000 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. The main ways of dealing with the disease are radiation therapy, surgery and watchful waiting – each of which has its benefits and disadvantages. Researchers have hypothesized that one disadvantage of using radiation to kill the cancer cells in the prostate is that it might also make men more likely to develop cancer in the nearby rectum.

In this study, doctors in Canada evaluated the records of 237,773 men who had prostate cancer. Of them, 33,841 received radiation therapy, 167,607 had their prostate removed surgically and 36,335 received neither treatment. On an initial simple evaluation, doctors found that rectal cancer developed in 243 men who received radiation (0.7 percent), 578 men treated with surgery (0.3 percent), and 227 of the men given neither treatment (0.8 percent). Once doctors had adjusted for the age differences between all the men in the irradiated and non-irradiated groups, they could not find any significant increased risk of rectal cancer in the irradiated men compared to those not given radiation therapy.

"Rectal cancer from other causes is frequent enough in our population to obscure any small incidence of radiation-induced cancer. I hope that the results of this study will help men with prostate cancer and their families put these risks in their proper perspective, and not let their concerns about rectal cancer dissuade them from choosing radiation therapy as a treatment for this disease," said Wayne S. Kendal, M.D., Ph.D., an Associate Professor in Radiation Oncology at the Ottawa Hospital Regional Cancer Centre in Ontario, Canada.

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For more information on radiation therapy for prostate cancer, please visit www.rtanswers.org. To arrange an interview with Dr. Kendal or for a copy of the study, please contact Beth Bukata at bethb@astro.org, 1-800-962-7876 or 703-839-7332.

ASTRO is the largest radiation oncology society in the world, with more than 8,500 members who specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies. As the leading organization in radiation oncology, biology and physics, the Society is dedicated to the advancement of the practice of radiation oncology by promoting excellence in patient care, providing opportunities for educational and professional development, promoting research and disseminating research results and representing radiation oncology in a rapidly evolving socioeconomic healthcare environment.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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