Advances in Prostate
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
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
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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