About This Condition
Prostate cancer is a malignancy of the prostate. It is characterized by unregulated replication of cells creating tumors, with the possibility of some of the cells spreading to other sites (metastasis).
This article includes a discussion of studies that have assessed whether certain vitamins, minerals, herbs, or other dietary ingredients offered in dietary or herbal supplements may be beneficial in connection with the reduction of risk of developing prostate cancer.
This information is provided solely to aid consumers in discussing supplements with their healthcare providers. It is not advised, nor is this information intended to advocate, promote, or encourage self use of these supplements for cancer risk reduction or treatment. Furthermore, none of this information should be misconstrued to suggest that dietary or herbal supplements can or should be used in place of conventional anticancer approaches or treatments.
It should be noted that certain studies referenced, indicating the potential usefulness of a particular dietary ingredient or dietary or herbal supplement in connection with the reduction of risk of prostate cancer, are preliminary evidence only. Some studies suggest an association between high blood or dietary levels of a particular dietary ingredient with a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer. Even if such an association were established, this does not mean that dietary supplements containing large amounts of the dietary ingredient will necessarily have a cancer risk reduction effect.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. Although the cause is not known, most researchers believe that alterations in testosterone metabolism and/or bodily responses to testosterone are involved.
Throughout the world, autopsy reports show that evidence of microscopic prostate cancer is extremely common in older men. However, most men who have such microscopic disease are never diagnosed with, nor do they die from, prostate cancer. Unlike this dormant form of the disease, the incidence of potentially life-threatening prostate cancer varies greatly in different parts of the world. Researchers believe that some factors, possibly involving diet or lifestyle issues, determine the risk of having potentially life-threatening prostate cancer.
American men are at high risk of being diagnosed with such prostate cancer, and African-American men are at particularly high risk, for reasons that are not completely clear. A family history of prostate cancer increases the risk to a limited extent. Farmers, mechanics, workers in tire and rubber manufacturing, sheet metal workers, and workers exposed to cadmium have also been reported to be at increased risk.
Prostate cancer usually grows slowly, initially producing no symptoms. Later in the course of the disease, symptoms that overlap with symptoms of prostatic hyperplasia, a very common benign condition, may appear. Some of these symptoms include frequent urination (including having to urinate more frequently at night), pain on urination, a weak urinary stream, dribbling after urination, and a sensation of incomplete emptying. In addition, blood may appear in urine. None of these symptoms is specific to prostate cancer; the diagnosis of this disease requires the help of a doctor.
If prostate cancer spreads to a distant part of the body, it most often is found in bone, a condition that may cause bone pain. Late stages of the disease are associated with severe weight loss, untreatable fatigue-inducing anemia, and finally death.
Treatment of men with prostate cancer varies depending on the age and health of the patient, extent of the cancer, and to some degree, the views of the oncologist. Surgical removal of the prostate gland is often performed if the cancer appears to be contained within the prostate gland. Surgical removal of the testicles (orchiectomy) might be recommended to halt testosterone production. Radiation, with or without surgery, is also commonly used to treat men with prostate cancer. External beam radiation delivers radioactivity from a machine. With brachytherapy, radiation is emitted from tiny radioactive seeds that are inserted directly into the prostate. Men who are older and appear to have less aggressive disease might delay treatment until symptoms develop—a plan called “watchful waiting.” Watchful waiting is sometimes considered a reasonable approach, because the side effects of treatment are usually significant, while their therapeutic benefits often appear to be relatively small and sometimes unclear. In addition, since prostate tumors often grow slowly, older men often die from diseases unrelated to the prostate cancer.