Physicians often prescribe androgen deprivation therapy, commonly called hormone therapy, to treat prostate cancer. The drugs, which have been given prior to surgery or in conjunction with radiation therapy, can shrink prostate tumors or slow their growth. But a recent study by researchers in Boston found a potential downside to hormone therapy: an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, especially among patients who have prostate surgery.
The researchers followed 4,892 patients with localized prostate cancer treated with either radical prostatectomy, radiation therapy, or cryotherapy, 1,015 of whom also received hormone therapy. (Cryotherapy destroys cancerous tissue by freezing it.) They found that men who had surgery and received hormones for an average of four months were 2.6 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than men who did not take hormones. Patients treated with radiation therapy or cryotherapy and hormones also had a higher incidence of death from cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t take hormones, but the difference was not statistically significant.
Although the exact connection between hormone therapy and death from cardiovascular disease remains unclear, the researchers noted that their findings indicated that patients should undergo a careful cardiovascular evaluation before starting hormone therapy.
SOURCE: Tsai HK, D’Amico AV, Sadetsky N, et al. Androgen deprivation therapy for localized prostate cancer and the risk of cardiovascular mortality. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2007;99:1516–24. PMID: 17925537.
Originally published Jan. 1, 2008; last reviewed March 22, 2011.