Men diagnosed with prostate cancer are less likely to die from the disease than from largely preventable conditions such as heart disease, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). It is the largest study to date that looks at causes of death among men with prostate cancer, and suggests that encouraging healthy lifestyle changes should play an important role in prostate cancer management.

“Our results are relevant for several million men living with prostate cancer in the United States,” said first author Mara Epstein, a postdoctoral researcher at HSPH. “We hope this study will encourage physicians to use a prostate cancer diagnosis as a teachable moment to encourage a healthier lifestyle, which could improve the overall health of men with prostate cancer, increasing both the duration and quality of their life.”

The study was published July 25, 2012 in the Advance Access online Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed form of cancer, affecting one in six men during their lifetime. While incidence of prostate cancer has greatly increased in the United States, Sweden, and other Western countries in recent decades, the likelihood that a newly diagnosed man in these countries will die from the disease has declined. The researchers attribute this to the widespread use of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which has resulted in a higher proportion of men diagnosed with lower-risk forms of the disease.

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