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Drug May Help Prevent Prostate Cancer

New Guidelines for Healthy Men to Talk to Their Doctors About Taking Proscar
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 24, 2009 -- Millions of healthy men may benefit from talking to their doctors about taking the drug Proscar to prevent prostate cancer, according to new guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Urological Association.

The recommendation is based on evidence gathered from 15 clinical trials, including the large Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT) of over 18,000 men aged 55 and older. In that study, men who took a Proscar pill daily for one to seven years were about 25% less likely to develop prostate cancer than men who took a placebo.

Proscar is a type of drug known as a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor (5-ARI). These drugs lower the level of the hormone dihydrotestosterone, which can contribute to the growth of prostate cancer. Currently, 5-ARIs are used to treat certain noncancerous conditions, including male-pattern baldness and benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Another 5-ARI, called Avodart, is also being tested as a prostate cancer preventive. While the guidelines call for discussing the whole class of drugs with your doctor, only Proscar has been proven to reduce cancer risk to date, notes says Barnett S. Kramer, MD, MPH, associate director for disease prevention at the National Institutes of Health and co-chair of the guidelines panel.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death among men. The American Cancer Society estimates that 186,320 American men were diagnosed with the disease last year.

Key Recommendations

The key recommendations in the guideline include:

  • Men with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level of 3.0 or below who are screened regularly, or who plan to get yearly PSA tests and who show no symptoms, are encouraged to talk with their doctor about the risks and benefits of taking a 5-ARI to further prevent their likelihood of getting prostate cancer.
  • Men who are already taking a 5-ARI for other conditions should talk to their doctor about continuing to use the drug for the prevention of prostate cancer.

"Since age is the key risk factor for prostate cancer, I'd suggest that all men aged 55 and older talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits," Kramer says.

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