An early short course of hormone therapy may hold prostate cancer back for as long as eight years, scientists have claimed.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that the treatment can help men with potentially aggressive cancer to live longer if it is given in conjunction with radiotherapy.
The researchers found that just four months of hormone therapies had a dramatic effect when given at an early stage before and during standard radiotherapy.
In 40% of trial patients who received the "neoadjuvant" hormonal therapy there was a delay of up to eight years in the time it took for cancer to spread to their bones.
After 10 years, 11% of men given the treatment were free of cancer compared with 3% of those who underwent radiotherapy alone.
The short-term treatment minimises the risks associated with hormone therapies, which can have serious side effects including bone loss, and osteoporosis if used long-term.
Professor Mack Roach, from the University of California at San Francisco, who led the new research said: "This study demonstrates that the benefits of short-term hormonal therapy for men receiving radiation therapy for prostate cancer far outweigh the risks.
"While four months of hormonal therapy isn't enough to cause significant side effects, we found that it can delay the development of bone metastasis (spread) by as many as eight years, which is very significant."