Every spring the annual meeting of the American Urology Association hosts 10,000 urologists from all over the world for a full week of classes, meetings and presentations on a panoply of urologically related topics: urinary tract infections, kidney stones, bladder cancer, and kidney cancer, prosthetic penile implants, Peyronie’s disease (fixing penises that are crooked) as well as classes on treating penis fractures and penis cancer, just to name a few.
Thousands of abstracts are presented. Hundreds are on the topic of prostate cancer. Unfortunately, much of the “new” information being presented is of limited practical value. Many of the studies are a rehash of information presented at previous meetings. Other abstracts are on esoteric topics such as metabolic studies performed in mice. Truly evocative studies that impact the day to day management of prostate cancer enough to change the way we treat it are quite rare and to be highly valued.
Some years, it seems, nothing substantial is presented. This year, however, I came across two presentations of lasting importance, both on the same topic and both arriving at the same conclusion: If you have prostate cancer, and you want to prolong your life, you should be married. Yes, you heard it right. According to these two new studies, for married men compared to single men, the relative risk of dying from prostate cancer is reduced by 50% to 150%.
In the first study, Dr. Erik Castle compared prostate cancer survival in 91,000 married men to another 24,000 men who were single. All stages of prostate cancer, both early and advanced were included in the study. Correction factors were used to make allowances for differences in tumor grade, stage, age and race. The ten-year risk of dying of prostate cancer was 17% in married men and 27% in single men.
In the second study, Dr. Kenneth Nepple evaluated 3600 men with early-stage prostate cancer treated with surgery. The risk of dying of prostate cancer within ten years of being diagnosed was more than twice as large in single men (3%) when compared to married men (1.2%).
I’m sure that all of us married men realize the tremendous debt we owe to our wonderful spouses. Apparently men with prostate cancer need to be doubly thankful. Without their wives they might not even be alive.