Prostate cancer deaths in Europe fell significantly over the last decade, largely because of the use of hormonal treatment and early detection, scientists say.
By Caroline Ryan
BBC News Online health staff in Copenhagen
Data presented to the European Cancer Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark,
showed deaths fell 20% from 1990 to 2000.
Mortality has followed the same pattern as it has in the United States,
where rates have fallen by a third in the same period.
Rates had been increasing during the 1970s and 80s.
Professor Sir Richard Peto of the University of Oxford said death rates from
the disease in Europe had dropped from 106 per 100,000 men in 1990 to 87 per 100,000 a decade later.
In the US, deaths fell from around 124 to 83 per 100,000 over the same period.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of the disease in UK men.
Professor Peto, who worked on the research by the Prostate Cancer Trialists Collaborative Group, also analysed results from studies of 5,000 men aged 65 to 74 to evaluate the impact of hormonal treatments on prostate cancer survival rates.
They found giving early hormonal treatment for prostate cancer improved 10
year survival rates by 12%, compared to men who were not given the treatment until their cancer was more advanced.
However, deciding to use hormonal treatments is not a simple choice for
doctors and patients.
The most popular treatment used to be surgical castration, where the testes
which produce the male hormone testosterone are completely removed.
Because of the radical nature of the treatment, it tended to be reserved for
men with advanced disease.
Anti-hormonal drugs are now available which can also be used for men with
early stage disease, but these still cause impotence and shrivelled testes.
Newer drugs are available which do not have these side effects, but less
research has been carried out into their effectiveness.
The improve in survival rates in prostate cancer mirrors the benefits of
hormonal treatments such as tamoxifen.
UK and US breast cancer death rates have fallen by around a third since
Professor Peto told BBC News Online the latest data on prostate cancer
deaths in Europe confirmed the benefits of using hormonal treatments.
"They really do relate to better survival.
"If you get in there early with hormone treatment in prostate cancer, then it will substantially reduce the likelihood you'll die of the cancer in the next 10 years."
But he added: "Whether to use it is not an easy decision because of the side
effects of the treatment.
"There are hormonal treatments which do not have these effects, but they are
not as widely tested."