MURRAY, UT (4/20/2009) – A new 12-year national shows that men aged 55 and older who take a daily dose of medicine can decrease their risk of developing prostate cancer by up to 30 percent.
The drug, known by its generic name, Finasteride, helps to decrease the size of the prostate, which is important because after the age of 40 the prostate begins to enlarge, which puts pressure on the bladder and increases levels of testosterone. The testosterone changes into a hormone that causes further growth of the prostate. The new multi-year study provides clear evidence that Finasteride inhibits the formation of that hormone.
Based on the findings of the study, two major medical associations now recommend that men over age 55 take the drug to reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer.
Intermountain Medical Center urologist Jay Bishoff, MD, medical director of the Intermountain Urological Institute at the hospital, enrolled patients in the study of nearly 19,000 men. The first results were confirmed seven years into the study when thousands of tissue samples were reviewed by pathologists. Dr. Bishoff says Finasteride’s effect was clear: The rate of prostate cancer was 30 percent lower among men who took Finasteride compared to those who took a placebo.
Finasteride is sold under the brand name Proscar. It was given in doses of 5 milligrams a day. Side effects were rare, only slightly higher than in those men who took a placebo, says Dr. Bishoff. In a lower dose, Finasteride is sold as the drug Propecia to treat male pattern baldness.
Earlier this year, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Urology Association both recommended a daily dose of 5 milligrams of Finasteride for men aged 55 and older. Dr. Bishoff says he recommends it to his patients in that category.
Dr. Bishoff says Finasteride, taken daily, will not only significantly reduce the risk of prostate cancer, it will also eliminate other problems caused by an enlarged prostate, which can cause frequent urination due to the pressure it puts on the bladder. By preventing the growth of the prostate, that additional pressure is eliminated. Dr. Bishoff says many men can avoid the need for drugs or even surgery to correct problems caused by an enlarged prostate.
Finasteride does not cure cancer once it is present or shrink cancerous cells, says Dr. Bishoff. But by shrinking the benign tissue, it will make it easier for health experts to find cancer if it is present.