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The effectiveness of preoperative radiation therapy for advanced lower rectal carcinoma to preserve the function of pelvic organs and reduce local recurrences was examined in a prospective, randomized, controlled study.Fifty-one patients with a diagnosis of localized and resectable adenocarcinoma of the lower rectum undergoing 50 Gy of preoperative radiotherapy were recruited into the trial between April 1993 and March 1995. The patients were randomly allocated to complete autonomic nerve-preserving surgery without lateral node dissection (D1), or surgery with dissection of the lateral lymph nodes including autonomic nerves (D2) followed by oral administration of carmofur for one year.No difference was observed in either survival or disease-free survival between D1 and D2 groups. There was no difference between the two groups in terms of recurrence rate. A significant difference was observed in urinary and sexual function (P = 0.02 and 0.02, respectively) one year after surgery between D1 and D2 groups.This study suggests that lateral node dissection is not necessary in terms of curability for patients with advanced carcinoma of the lower rectum who undergo preoperative radiotherapy.