He added that while more study into the short- and long-term side effects of different treatment options are sorely needed, the new findings "come as no surprise to those of us who manage prostate cancer based on the mechanism for radiation therapy-induced cellular toxicity."
Another expert said the new study "makes strides towards evaluating the relative effectiveness of treatments." Dr. David Samadi, associate professor of urology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, in New York City, said that "while external beam therapy has an important role in the treatment of prostate cancer, these finds suggest we should reserve it for patients who are unable to tolerate other treatment options or have advanced disease, as in the case of adjuvant or salvage therapy."
However, Dr. Louis Potters, chair of the department of radiation medicine at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., said the study may not be the final word on the issue.
"Analyzing claims data is a good way to 'see' how patients are treated. Yet, this type of study should not be used to imply that any one treatment is better than another," he said. "It is up to the treating physician to understand the risks of each therapy. And it's up to the treating physician to make cogent and unbiased recommendations to patients regarding their best outcome."
Findings presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until they have been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on prostate cancer.
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