Myths About Prostate Cancer Treatment Debunked

October 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Prostate Cancer News

The beauty with continuous researches and studies about conditions like prostate cancer is that we discover that what we thought worked in the past didn’t really work.

While it may be easy to say the past recommendations were myths and not truths, let’s just say the truths of yesterday quickly turn to lies or myths, in the face of superior research and study.

So, the more advancements and studies we carry out, especially when it comes to cancers like Prostate Cancer, the better we will be.

In today’s news article, some of the age-old myths about prostate cancer treatments were debunked. Things that we thought helped with prostate cancer in the past don’t.

Read more of this below:

?It’s October, which means a proliferation of pink ribbons, but over at Washington University Medical School, a number of studies are underway to find out more about breast cancer’s male analogue, prostate cancer. Yeah, fellas, we know you don’t like to talk about it (mammograms aren’t exactly pleasant, but we must admit they’re better than your doctor sticking a finger up your ass), but urology chief Dr. Gerald Andriole is trying to make things better for you.

He has three messages:

1. Saw palmetto is a crock.

2. The more animal protein you eat, the better your chances of developing prostate cancer.

3. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force was way off base when it suggested that healthy men age 50 or over don’t need to get routine prostate screenings. (Sorry.)

Saw palmetto extract (from the fruit of the saw palmetto tree) has been popular for hundreds of years for relieving bladder distress. But recently Andriole, along with Dr. Michael Barry of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, ran an experiment to see it actually works.

In the study, 300 men aged 45 or older with signs of an enlarged prostate (that is, various problems peeing, either too often, or with great difficulty) were given either saw palmetto pills or an identical-looking placebo. Over the course of seventeen months, the doctors raised the dose from 320 milligrams to 640 milligrams to 960 milligrams, three times the recommended dosage. They detected no difference between the patients who were taking actual saw palmetto and those who were taking the placebo.

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And the changes they reported were only in their symptoms; the prostate itself didn’t shrink.

“Hope is more effective than saw palmetto,” Andriole summarizes. “Some people say it works. I say, I’m glad they feel better, but the changes aren’t internal. They don’t saop the inexorable progress of prostatic disorder.”

Andriole admits the study was complicated by the fact that the quality of saw palmetto varies widely between manufacturers — and even within the capsules produced by the same manufacturer — because of changes in the saw palmetto crop from year to year.

“Some may ask how can we be sure we picked the most potent capsules?” he asks. “We don’t know. We tested based on what know: If any should work, these should be among those that work.”

What would be far more effective, Andriole believes, is if men reduce the amount of animal protein in their diets.

Researchers actually determined that there was a link between prostate cancer and diet about 20 years ago, Andriole says, but recent animal studies have shown that a change in diet actually induces changes on the genetic level.

“It’s not even over the course of a lifetime,” he says, “just a few weeks, but a restriction in protein makes a difference in terms of what genes get turned on and off. It’s impressive that the system can moderate so quickly with a relatively modest change.”

Now it’s time to start investigating the effects of protein restriction in humans in two separate studies. The first will look at 40 to 50 men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer and have been slated to have their prostates removed. Over the course of three weeks, half the men will go on a diet, reducing their protein intake by half, while the rest will continue to eat normally. Once the prostates are removed, part of the tumors will go to the lab so researchers can analyze the genes and see which ones have changed.

(The delay in surgery is OK, by the way, because prostate cancer grows so slowly. Andriole says some men delay their surgery by three to six months.)

The second experiment will take a look at men who have already undergone radiation treatment for prostate cancer and are now seeing a recurrence of the disease. The first sign of prostate cancer is an increase in the amount of PSA, or prostate-specific antigen. Andriole will study a group of 50 to 100 men. Again, half will go on a reduced-protein diet for several weeks.

“It’s not a crisis and we don’t have to intervene immediately,” Andriole explains. “This gives us an opportunity to ask the question, if a low-protein diet has a beneficial effect in reducing PSA. If it does, that’s another level of evidence that diet matters.” Read more here.

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