Context: The appropriate therapy for men with clinically localized prostate cancer is uncertain. A recent study suggested an increasing prostate cancer mortality rate for men who are alive more than 15 years following diagnosis.
Objective: To estimate 20-year survival based on a competing risk analysis of men who were diagnosed with clinically localized prostate cancer and treated with observation or androgen withdrawal therapy alone, stratified by age at diagnosis and histological findings.
Design, setting, and patients: A retrospective population-based cohort study using Connecticut Tumor Registry data supplemented by hospital record and histology review of 767 men aged 55 to 74 years with clinically localized prostate cancer diagnosed between January 1, 1971, and December 31, 1984. Patients were treated with either observation or immediate or delayed androgen withdrawal therapy, with a median observation of 24 years.
Main outcome measures: Probability of mortality from prostate cancer or other competing medical conditions, given a patient's age at diagnosis and tumor grade.
Results: The prostate cancer mortality rate was 33 per 1000 person-years during the first 15 years of follow-up (95% confidence interval [CI], 28-38) and 18 per 1000 person-years after 15 years of follow-up (95% CI, 10-29). The mortality rates for these 2 follow-up periods were not statistically different, after adjusting for differences in tumor histology (rate ratio, 1.1; 95% CI, 0.6-1.9). Men with low-grade prostate cancers have a minimal risk of dying from prostate cancer during 20 years of follow-up (Gleason score of 2-4, 6 deaths per 1000 person-years; 95% CI, 2-11). Men with high-grade prostate cancers have a high probability of dying from prostate cancer within 10 years of diagnosis (Gleason score of 8-10, 121 deaths per 1000 person-years; 95% CI, 90-156). Men with Gleason score of 5 or 6 tumors have an intermediate risk of prostate cancer death.
Conclusion: The annual mortality rate from prostate cancer appears to remain stable after 15 years from diagnosis, which does not support aggressive treatment for localized low-grade prostate cancer.