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May 4, 2005

The Natural History of Clinically Localized Prostate Cancer

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Preventive Medicine (Dr Gann) and Urology (Dr Han), and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Ill.

JAMA. 2005;293(17):2149-2151. doi:10.1001/jama.293.17.2149

Light from the stars in Stephan’s Quintet in the Pegasus constellation takes 270 million years to reach Earth. By the time this light arrives and allows observers to see these galaxies, the stars are no longer there. Observing the long-term outcomes for patients with minimally treated prostate cancer evokes a similar although much less extreme dilemma. In this issue of JAMA, Albertsen and colleagues1 report updated results from a cohort of Connecticut men who received neither surgical nor radiation therapy for prostate cancer diagnosed between 1971 and 1984. This cohort is noteworthy because it is the largest of its kind yet assembled. In addition, it is population-based and has a mean follow-up time of more than 20 years—which is virtually Hubble telescope range given the pace of recent developments in prostate cancer detection.