(HealthDay News) — Men with early-stage prostate cancer who have surgery to remove their tumor do not live longer than those who receive no treatment at all, according a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Timothy Wilt, MD, MPH, a clinical investigator with the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System, and colleagues randomly assigned 731 men with low-risk prostate cancer to either undergo surgery or observation only.

Of the men who underwent prostate cancer surgery, 223 (61.3%) died during as much as 2 decades of follow-up, compared with 245 men (66.8%) placed on observation. The difference was not statistically significant, the researchers noted. In addition, 27 men (7.4%) in the surgery group died of prostate cancer, compared with 42 men (11.4%) in the observation group. That difference also was not statistically significant, according to the investigators. At the same time, nearly 1 in 3 men who had the surgery experienced long-term complications, such as urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction, Wilt told HealthDay.

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“Our results demonstrate that for the large majority of men with localized prostate cancer, selecting observation for their treatment choice can help them live a similar length of life, avoid death from prostate cancer and prevent harms from surgical treatment,” Wilt said.


  1. Wilt TJ, Jones KM, Barry MJ, et al. Follow-up of prostatectomy versus observation for early prostate cancer. N Eng J Med. 2017;377:132-142. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1615869