How 5-alpha reductase inhibitor (5-ARI) use influences prostate cancer mortality is unclear. The objective of this study was to determine whether men taking 5-ARIs with regular health care access have increased prostate cancer mortality.


We undertook two analyses in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study examining 5-ARI use, determined by biennial questionnaires, and prostate cancer. A cohort analysis followed 38,037 cancer-free men for prostate cancer incidence from 1996 through January 2017 and mortality through January 2019. A case-only analysis followed 4,383 men with localized/locally advanced prostate cancer for mortality over a similar period. HRs and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated for prostate cancer incidence and mortality.


Men using 5-ARIs underwent more PSA testing, prostate exams and biopsies. Over 20 years of follow-up, 509 men developed lethal disease (metastases or prostate cancer death). Among men initially free from prostate cancer, 5-ARI use was not associated with developing lethal disease [HR, 1.02; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.71–1.46], but was associated with reduced rates of overall and localized disease (HR, 0.71; 0.60–0.83). Among men diagnosed with prostate cancer, there was no association between 5-ARI use and cancer-specific (HR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.48–1.27) or overall survival (HR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.72–1.07).


Men using 5-ARIs were less likely to be diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer, without increasing long-term risk of lethal prostate cancer or cancer-specific death after diagnosis.


Our results provide evidence that 5-ARI use is safe with respect to prostate cancer mortality in the context of regular health care access.

See related commentary by Hamilton, p. 1259

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