Men diagnosed with prostate cancer are less likely to die from the disease than from something largely preventable, such as heart disease.
A recent study, the largest ever conducted, looked at the causes of death in men with prostate cancer. It suggested that healthy lifestyle habits can change a man's destiny.
"Know your PSA score."
"Our study shows that lifestyle changes such as losing weight, increasing physical activity, and quitting smoking, may indeed have a greater impact on patients' survival than the treatment they receive for their prostate cancer," said senior author Hans-Olov Adami, MD, PhD, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).
While the number of prostate cancer cases has risen dramatically in the US, Sweden and other Western countries in recent decades, the number of men the disease kills has decreased.
The increasing cases are due to widespread use of PSA (prostate-specific antigen) screening and diagnosis of lower-risk cancers, according to the authors.
Researchers looked at the causes of death in men with prostate cancer by examining 1973-2008 data from the US Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER), which involved more than 490,000 men.
They also looked at the nationwide Swedish Cancer and Cause of Death registries between 1961 and 2008, which included data on 210,000 men.
Prostate cancer was the cause of death in only 35 percent of the men with the disease in Sweden and 16 percent of the men in the US.
Men who were diagnosed with the disease at older ages were more likely to die of the cancer.
"Our results are relevant for several million men living with prostate cancer in the United States," said first author Mara Epstein, ScD, an HSPH postdoctoral researcher.
"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," Dr. Epstein said.
The study was published July 25 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The study was supported by Karolinska Institutet Distinguished Professor Award, and grants from the National Institutes of Health and Svenska Sällskapet för Medicinsk Forskning.
No financial conflicts of interest were reported.