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The optimal primary treatment of localized high grade prostate cancer in younger men remains controversial. The objective of this project was to compare the impact of initial radical prostatectomy vs radiation therapy on survival outcomes in young men less than 60 years old with high grade prostate cancer.We retrospectively analyzed the records of men younger than 60 years in the SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results) database who underwent initial surgery or radiation therapy of high grade (Gleason score 8 or greater) localized (N0M0 TNM stage) prostate cancer from 2004 to 2012. Univariate and multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to examine prostate cancer specific and overall mortality.A total of 2,228 men were identified, of whom 1,459 (65.5%) underwent initial surgery and had a median followup of 43 months and 769 (34.5%) underwent initial external beam radiation therapy with or without brachytherapy and had a median followup of 44 months. On multivariate analysis initial treatment with surgery was associated with improved prostate cancer specific and overall mortality compared with initial radiation treatment (HR 0.37, 95% CI 0.19–0.74, p = 0.005 vs HR 0.41, 95% CI 0.24–0.70, p = 0.001) when controlling for age, biopsy Gleason score, T stage and prostate specific antigen.Our data showed significant survival differences in young men treated initially with surgery vs external beam radiation therapy of high grade prostate cancer. Future prospective randomized trials are needed to confirm the long-term outcomes of these treatment approaches.