After non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in American men. It's also highly treatable if caught early. For many men, though, the standard treatments for prostate cancer -- medication, radiation, and surgery -- often come with unwanted side effects.
Because of those side effects, some men wonder if alternative treatments might be beneficial. Is it possible such remedies as herbs and natural dietary supplements might help treat prostate cancer? Vitamin D3 has shown promise as a treatment for advanced prostate cancer. It is still under study and cannot be recommended for use outside a trial at this time. If you choose to use it, please notify your doctor.
This fact sheet provides basic information about the herb saw palmetto -- common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources for more information. Saw palmetto grows in the southern United States.Common Names--saw palmetto, American dwarf palm tree, cabbage palm
Latin Names--Serenoa repens, Sabal serrulata
The risk of developing prostate cancer has been demonstrated in drug trials of finasteride and dutasteride. Could natural therapies also be used to delay the development of prostate cancer or retard its progression? Can natural herbs and dietary supplements be used for other prostate problems? Clinical trials continue to investigate these questions.
Which men are at risk for prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men in the United States. It is thought that virtually all men with circulating androgens (hormones) will develop microscopic prostate cancer if they live long enough. In fact, when prostatic tissue is scrutinized under a microscope after surgery (or at autopsy), cancer is found in 50% of men older than 70. And it's found in virtually all men over 90.
How does diet impact prostate cancer?
Diet may account for about one-third of cancers of the prostate, large bowel, and breast. All of these cancers are more common in the Western world than in Asian countries such as Japan and China. Although cancer is influenced by both hereditary and environmental factors, studies show that Japanese men and those who eat a vegetarian diet have the lowest rates of prostate cancer. One possible explanation is the low fat content of the Asian diet. Another is that certain nutrients in the foods in these diets may help reduce the cancer risk.
If you've been diagnosed with prostate cancer, listen to your conventional medical doctor. Your doctor will guide your treatment regimen using the latest proven cancer therapies. Some alternative treatments for prostate cancer may be harmful when used with standard cancer treatments. So, always check with your health care provider before using any natural herb or supplement. That way you can avoid drug-herb interactions.
What about lycopene for prostate cancer?
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant. It's found in abundance in some fruits and vegetables, particularly cooked tomatoes. Some studies show that people who eat diets high in tomatoes and other fruits high in lycopene have lower cancer rates, and some researchers even believe lycopene may retard the growth of prostate tumors. However, results of several studies have not been consistent.
Lycopene is found in large quantities in foods normally consumed. No side effects have been noted or precautions suggested when this "super nutrient" is eaten as part of a balanced diet.