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Cancer Therapies HOL-emblem1-web.GIF (3556 bytes)

Advances in Prostate Cancer Protection

Prostate cancer is the most common type of male cancer. One American man in five develops prostate cancer; it most often appears in men who are in their sixties and seventies.

Detecting prostate cancer early can have beneficial effects in developing a strategy to control it. Till very recently, the marker used by scientists to detect prostate cancer was called PSA which stands for prostate-specific antigen.

Recently, scientists at Harvard University School of Public Health found that men with high levels of the hormone insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) were more than four times as likely as those with low levels of the substance to go on to develop prostate cancer. The study was reported in Science magazine.

The study found that IGF-1 levels predicted cancers in some men whose PSA tests were normal. If these results are confirmed, physicians might one day test for both PSA and IGF-1 to screen for prostate cancer. IGF is produced by the liver and promotes cell growth while inhibiting cell death. The hormone may also be involved in the growth of prostate tumors. Based on the study indications, the Harvard researchers have suggested that physicians refrain from prescribing growth hormones to men as an anti-aging remedy, since the hormones may feed prostate tumors.

Along with indications that IGF-1 might be a new cancer marker, the researchers also noted a correlation between IGF-1 levels and cancer development. Further research is needed to establish whether this is indeed a true indicator.

At the moment, Doctors have no way of distinguishing between slow-growing tumors and full-blown cancers. Because of this zone of doubt, many men elect to undergo unnecessary treatment -- including surgery, with its often devastating side effects.

Studies show that between 30% and 70% of men who have radical prostectomies become impotent and 10% to 45% of them will experience incontinence. This encouraging new marker research, however, may soon mean that doctors can do a biopsy and tell a patient that his IGF-1 levels confirm his prostate cancer to be of the "slow-growth" variety. This means that a man could be told that he can live with his cancer without fear of dying from it.

Another encouraging development in prostate cancer prevention concerns Vitamin E. According to the March 11, 1998 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vitamin E, in the form of alpha tocopherol, reduced prostate cancer risk by a third and the disease's death rate by 41% in a study of thousands of smokers. The same study, conducted at the University of Helsinki in Finland, found that a form of Vitamin A had no effect on reducing cancer. A recent study has reinforced this beneficial effect of Vitamin E on retarding prostate cancer.

The Vitamin E dosage in the study was 50 mg. a day, or 50 international units -- five times the recommended daily allowance for men, and about 2-1/2 times what most people get from food. Many nutritional researchers and physicians, however, recognize that the recommended daily allowances (RDAs) for vitamins and minerals are most likely calculated too low for ensuring optimum health. (Please see our discussion on this topic and suggested optimum nutritional allowance (SONA)). "RDAs were established 30 years ago when nutritional research was still in relative infancy," says Dale Prokupek, M.D., a gastroenterologist practicing in Beverly Hills, CA. "Men who want to prevent prostate cancer should not be dissuaded by the fact that the potentially protective prostate cancer dosage of Vitamin E is five times higher than the RDA.... Research has proven that people need more supplementation of nutrients such as calcium, selenium, Vitamin C and chromium than the RDA call for in order to promote optimum bone health, immunity and longevity. The same situation may apply to Vitamin E."

Dr. Prokupek suggested that men over the age of 40 or those who have a family history of prostate cancer may want to start taking 50 mg. of Vitamin E a day. "You have nothing to lose and everything to gain," he says."The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 1997 that found that taking daily Vitamin supplements helps delay the onset of Alzheimer's Disease."

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