How big of a problem is prostate cancer?

It’s the most common cancer in men in the United States. Its been about 200,000 cases a year for the last five years or so. That means in the last five years, there are a million affected really with prostate cancer. It’s also the second most common cancer killer in men in the United States, after lung cancer. What’s really important for people to understand is that African-Americans are about three times the risk of getting prostate cancer and three times the risk of dying from prostate cancer.

There are many, many reasons for that, probably although no one knows the relative contribution of each of those reasons. Some of it has to do with access to care, some of it has to do with education, but even in a system like the military where race does not play a factor in access to care, prostate cancer behaves more aggressively in black men than Caucasians. So, there probably is something biologic to it as well.

The good news is that the mortality due to prostate cancer in Caucasian men is now lower than it was before PSA screening was introduced in 1987, but the mortality rate in the United States for African-Americans hasn’t changed at all in the last several decades.

There’s a lot of laboratory evidence to suggest that both vitamin E and/or selenium act as antioxidants. Oxidants are cellular toxins that can cause DNA to mutate and turn into cancer. The real interest in vitamin E and selenium came from two large-scale, randomized trials using lots of participants, looking at other diseases. In the case of selenium, it was a study called the Clark Trial, where they looked at whether or not selenium would prevent recurrence of non-melanoma skin cancer. It didn’t have any effect on skin cancer, but as what we call a secondary end point — sort of a surprise — the incidence of prostate cancer was markedly reduced in the men who took selenium. And, for vitamin E, it was an even larger trial — 29,000 finished smokers — and there the hypothesis was that vitamin E would prevent lung cancer. What was interesting is in fact, the smokers that took vitamin E actually had more lung cancer. So, it doesn’t always work. That’s why we need to do studies. But, again, as a surprise, as a secondary end point, the incidence of vitamin E was markedly reduced by about 40 percent in the men who, rather the instance of prostate cancer was markedly reduced in the men who took vitamin E.

Prostate cancer is still a major killer in the United States. It’s second only to lung cancer with around 31,000 deaths a year. But, even if you don’t die from prostate cancer, if you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer in your 40s or 50s, the side effects of treatment are pretty substantial. Because of the anatomy of the male, treatment for prostate cancer, whether its by radiation or by surgery, can cause difficulty with urination, it can cause difficulty with sexual function, and it can cause bowel difficulties. It would be a lot easier to prevent that from happening than to have many hundreds of thousands of men go through treatment every year and experience all those side effects.

Source: Ivanhoe News

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