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New Prostate Drug Has a Low Cancer Risk

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Long-term results from a major U.S. government sponsored study have eased concerns about the safety of a hormone-blocking drug that can lower a man’s chances of developing prostate cancer. However, not all medics are convinced that the taking such drugs is of value.

The drug examined, in its generic form is finasteride (the label claim is for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia). Commercially it is sold as Proscar by Merck & Co.  The drug is prescribed to treat urinary problems from enlarged prostates, according to NPR. It is, in addition, sold in a lower dose as Propecia to treat hair loss.

Finasteride

Finasteride 3D ball model , formula C23 H36 N2 O2,
molecular mass 372.549 g/m

The reason for the U.S. government study (through the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) is because although the drug was found to cut the risk of prostate cancer, there was a small rise in aggressive tumors among its users (according to a U.S. FDA warning). The FDA said at the time: “This risk appears to be low, but healthcare professionals should be aware of this safety information, and weigh the known benefits against the potential risks when deciding to start or continue treatment.”

However, the new study indicates that men prescribed the drug were no more likely to die than those not taking it.

Overall, the study outcomes showed that the drug was able to cut the prostate cancer risk by 30 percent without raising the risk of dying of an aggressive form of the disease. The findings have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The paper is titled “Long-Term Survival of Participants in the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial.”

However, the use of the drug is not supported by all physicians. According to USA Today, Benjamin Davies, an assistant professor of urology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, stated that “I personally did not think it is a sound public health policy to say in any way shape or form that Proscar can help you with the prevention of prostate cancer.” Rather than taking meds, Davies recommends physical screening.

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.