Prostate Cancer Drugs Raise Osteoporosis Risk

Common Prostate Cancer Therapy May Put Bones at Risk

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on January 20, 2004
From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 20, 2004 -- A common prostate cancer therapy can weaken men's bones and put them at risk for osteoporosis.

A new study shows androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) can lead to severe bone loss among men. Androgens are male hormones that are implicated in both cancer growth and bone strength.

ADT is used in prostate cancer treatment to reduce tumor growth and improve the odds of survival. The therapy works by inhibiting the androgens in the body that stimulate the growth of prostate cancer cells as well as curbing the production of androgens in the hormone centers of the brain.

Researchers say this hormone suppression also results in a form of "male menopause," which weakens the bones and increases the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.

Prostate Cancer Drugs Weaken Bones

In the study, published in the March 1 issue of Cancer, researchers reviewed studies on the treatment of osteoporosis in men who received ADT for their prostate cancer.

Although osteoporosis is most frequently associated with postmenopausal women, men also lose bone density and strength as they get older. Therapies that speed the natural loss of bone mass, such as ADT, may increase the risk of the bone-thinning disease.

The study showed that men who received ADT as part of their prostate cancer therapy experienced significant bone loss with rates of bone loss ranging from 2% to 8% in the spine and 1.8% to 6.5% in the hip during the first 12 months of ADT.

The studies also showed there was an increase in the rate of fractures in men with prostate cancer treated with androgen deprivation therapy.

Researchers say the findings show that men with prostate cancer are at high risk for osteoporosis and doctors should monitor them for bone loss during treatment with ADT to help reduce the likelihood of dangerous bone fractures.