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This article assesses the significance of comorbid and nonclinical factors in type of treatment received by elderly male patients with local-regional stage prostate cancer. Multivariate analysis of data from the Virginia Cancer Registry was linked to Medicare claim files, the Area Resource File, and 1990 Census Data. The type of initial treatment received was studied in 3117 men with local-regional staged prostate cancer diagnosed from 1985 to 1989.The frequency of surgical and radiation therapy for prostate cancer rose between 1985 and 1989 (12.5% to 18.5% for surgery,P< 0.001; 25% to 32% for radiation, P < 0.001). Age was the most important predictor of therapeutic choice; no therapy was given to 26% of men 65 to 69 years old versus 63% of men 85 years or older P < 0.001). Race, residence (rural versus urban), and comorbidity were also strong factors in predicting initial therapy. Using logistic regression, three treatment alternatives were evaluated. Age (odds ratio [OR].51; 99% confidence interval [CI] =.43,.60), comorbidity (OR.72; 99% CI.63,.82), income (OR 1.14; 99% CI 1.01, 1.28), residence (OR.65; 99% CI.48,.87), diagnosis year (OR 1.15; 99% CI 1.07, 1.23) all were associated independently with treatment versus no treatment. For surgery versus radiation, age (OR.40; 99% CI.27,.57), race (OR 2.92; 99% CI 1.65, 5.15) and education (OR 1.75; 99% CI 1.31, 2.34) were significant factors. For hormonal/orchiectomy versus surgery/radiation, age (OR 5.19; 99% CI 3.84, 7.01), comorbidity (OR 1.28; 99% CI 1.03, 1.58), distance to radiation oncologist (OR.89; 99% CI.80,.99), and diagnosis year (OR.89; 99% CI.79, 1.00) were significant.The number of men receiving surgical and radiation treatments for prostate cancer increased between 1985 and 1989. During that period, age consistently played a significant role in all therapeutic decisions. Other factors, such as comorbidity, race, socioeconomic status, and distance, also were important considerations, depending on the treatment alternative.