Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Prostate Radiation Linked to Rectal Cancer

Radiation Treatment for Prostate Cancer May Double Rectal Cancer Risk
WebMD Health News

April 1, 2005 - Men who receive radiation treatment for prostate cancer are more likely to develop rectal cancer, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that men with prostate cancer who were treated with radiation had a 70% higher risk of developing rectal cancer than those who were treated with surgery only.

"Men who have had prostate radiation should be aggressively monitored for rectal cancer starting five years after treatment," says researcher Nancy Baxter, MD, PhD, of the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, in a news release. "This is the first time rectal cancer risk associated with prostate radiation has been quantified, and these findings may also have implications for patients treated with radiation for other pelvic cancers."

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. with about 230,000 men diagnosed with the disease each year. Although prostate cancer is highly treatable when caught in the early stages, researchers say men who survive prostate cancer may face higher risks of other types of cancer due to the effects of their treatment.

About 17% of men with prostate cancer are treated with radiation, usually because they choose radiation over surgery, are older, or have other medical problems.

In the study, which appears in the April issue of Gastroenterology, researchers looked at more than 85,000 men treated for prostate cancer from 1973 to 1994.

More than 30,000 of the men received radiation treatment for prostate cancer and about 55,000 had surgery only.

The results showed that radiation treatment was linked to a higher risk of cancer in areas that were irradiated, such as the rectum, but not in the remainder of the colon. The risk of developing rectal cancer among men who received radiation was 70% higher than those who underwent surgery alone.

Researchers say that increase in risk is roughly equivalent to the colorectal cancer risk associated with having a family history of the disease.

Prostate Cancer: Latest Treatments, Tips for Coping

Improvements With Current Technology

However, researchers say current technology allows for more targeted radiation treatment to the affected area than was available up to 1995. Even so, researchers say some portions of the rectum may still receive a high dose of radiation, which raises the risk of rectal cancer.

In an editorial that accompanies the study, William M. Grady of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and Ken Russell of the University of Washington Medical School say that the results highlight the need to monitor the long-term health of prostate cancer survivors.

"In light of the increasing number of men surviving prostate cancer, these findings have substantial implications not only regarding our understanding of radiation-induced cancers but also for our management of men who have undergone prostate irradiation," write the editorialists.

"As more men are successfully treated for their prostate cancer, the prevention of long-term complications from prostate cancer treatment can be predicted to become a major medical issue."

Today on WebMD

man with doctor
Symptoms, risks, treatments
man coughing
Men shouldn’t ignore
prostate cancer cells
What does this diagnosis mean?
doctor and male patient
Is it worth it?
cancer fighting foods
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
Prostate Enlarged
Picture Of The Prostate
Prostate Cancer Quiz
screening tests for men
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
Vitamin D