Questioning the 10-Year Life Expectancy Rule for High-Grade Prostate Cancer

Comparative Effectiveness of Aggressive Vs Nonaggressive Treatment of High-Grade Disease in Older Men with Differing Comorbid Disease Burdens

Published in: Urology, v. 93, July 2016, p. 68-76

Posted on on June 30, 2016

by T. J. Daskivich, Julie Lai, Andrew W. Dick, Claude Messan Setodji, Janet M. Hanley, Mark Litwin, Christopher S. Saigal

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Research Question

  1. Should older men with high-grade clinically localized prostate cancer pursue aggressive treatment?


To determine if the 10-year rule should apply to men with high-grade, clinically localized prostate cancer, we characterized the survival benefits of aggressive (surgery, radiation, brachytherapy) over nonaggressive treatment (watchful waiting, active surveillance) among older men with differing comorbidity at diagnosis.


We sampled 44,521 men older than 65 with cT1-2, poorly differentiated prostate cancer diagnosed in 1991–2007 from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare database. We used propensity-adjusted, competing-risks regression to calculate 5- and 10-year cancer mortality among those treated aggressively and nonaggressively across comorbidity subgroups. We determined 5- and 10-year absolute risk reduction in cancer mortality and numbers needed to treat to prevent one cancer death at 10 years.


In propensity-adjusted, competing-risks regression analysis, aggressive treatment was associated with significantly lower risk of cancer mortality for those with Charlson scores of 0 (sub-hazard ratio (SHR) 0.43, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.39-0.47), 1 (SHR 0.48, 95% CI 0.40-0.58), and 2 (SHR 0.46, 95% CI 0.34-0.62) but not 3+ (SHR 0.68, 95% CI 0.44-1.07). Absolute reductions in cancer mortality between those treated aggressively and nonaggressively were 7%, 5.5%, 6.9%, and 2.5% at 5 years, and 11.3%, 7.9%, 8.6%, and 2.8% at 10 years for men with Charlson scores of 0, 1, 2, and 3+ , respectively; numbers needed to treat to prevent 1 cancer death at 10 years were 9, 13, 12, and 36 men.


The 10-year rule may not apply to men with high-grade, clinically localized disease. Older men with Charlson scores ≤2 should consider aggressive treatment of such disease due to its substantial short-term cancer survival benefits.

Key Findings

  • Some men with high-risk prostate cancer benefit from aggressive treatment such as surgery, radiation, and brachytherapy.
  • Sound clinical judgment, thoughtful patient selection, and skillful surgical technique maximize treatment benefits.


  • Older men with high-grade prostate cancer should consider aggressive treatment due to its substantial short-term cancer survival benefits.

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