Two long-running studies of men with prostate cancer have partly clarified the risks of postponing treatment of the disease. A wait-and-watch approach increases some men's odds of premature death, compared with the odds in men who opt for prompt surgical removal of the prostate, researchers find. On the other hand, so-called watchful waiting is a gamble that can pay off for men whose tumors remain dormant or who are relatively old when they're diagnosed.
Each year, nearly 250,000 men in the United States learn that they have prostate cancer, and about 30,000 die from the disease. Deciding how aggressively to treat the cancer is difficult, because many prostate tumors aren't lethal, and surgery and alternative therapies frequently cause side effects.