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Men’s Health Supplements Useless in Prostate Cancer Patients

While a daily multi-vitamin may be advisable to fill in some general  nutrition gaps, there is currently no proof any of the supplements studied here improve prostate cancer health.

Pam Harrison

October 20, 2015

SAN ANTONIO ― Patients with prostate cancer who take any kind of men’s health supplement purporting to improve prostate health derive absolutely no benefit from supplementation, either in terms of improving their prognosis or reducing their risk for toxicity from radiation therapy, new research shows.

The study was presented here at the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) 57th Annual Meeting.

“We’ve routinely told patients not to take any medication unless they have a diagnosis and they have a particular reason to take a drug,” Nicholas Zaorsky, MD, resident physician in radiation oncology, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, told Medscape Medical News.

“And to our knowledge, there is no diagnosis that would have been a reason for men to take these supplements, but now we have a study to back us up on this.”

The study was done as a retrospective analysis and included patients treated at a National Cancer Institute–designated comprehensive cancer center.

From 2001 to 2012, 2207 men were treated with intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) for localized prostate cancer.

Men received a median dose of 78 Gy; the median follow-up was 46 months.

Using a very strict definition for men’s health supplements, only about 10% of the cohort were taking supplements marketed specifically for men’s health in general or prostate health in particular, but in the cohort overall, approximately half of all the patients were taking at least some sort of supplement.

Men’s health supplements contained a median of three identifiable ingredients, the most common being saw palmetto.

However, as Dr Zaorsky noted, there is no law saying that whatever is contained in a supplement must be shown on the label, and many of the ingredients listed on the label were simply “other,” “trade secret enzyme,” or “prostate complex.”

“None of the drug companies we know about have actually published a study in which these men’s health supplements were used, so we wanted to see, first of all, do these drug help men with the cancer they are most likely to get, which is prostate cancer, and do they affect the side effects from radiation therapy?” Dr Zaorsky explained.

The answer to both of these questions was clearly no.

Table. Outcomes and Toxicities, IMRT

Outcomes No Supplement Use Supplement Use sHR
5-year FFBF 9% 8% 0.75
5-year FFDM 3% 2% 0.75
5-year CSS 1% 1% 0.41
5-year OS 9% 5% 0.61
Acute toxicity GU grade 3-4 6% 5% 0.96
GI grade 3-4 1% 0% NA
Freedom from late toxicity GU grade 3-4 1% 1% NA
GI grade 3-4 2% 2% NA
FFBF, freedom from biochemical failure; FFDM, freedom from distal metastases; CSS, cancer-specific survival; OS, overall survival; sHR: adjustment for “healthy male bias”

 

Adding insult to injury, Dr Zaorsky noted that these supplements do not always come cheap.

“For a 1-month supply, some of these supplements cost upwards of $150, so it can range anywhere from $10 a month to well over $100 a month, which is very significant,” he said.

Dr Zaorsky has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) 57th Annual Meeting: Abstract 2492. Presented October 20, 2015.

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