US research suggests prostate drug could prevent cancer
A drug already used to shrink benign, enlarged prostates could also help to reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer, according to researchers in the US.
Research detailed in the April 1st issue of the New England Journal of Medicine shows dutasteride (Avodart) reduces the chances of men being diagnosed with the type of tumours which account for the majority of prostate cancers.
Crucially, the development of these tumours, which are classed as being in the mid-range of aggressiveness, is uncertain, meaning many men undergo surgery or radiation therapy which can ultimately lead to incontinence and impotence.
A four-year trial of 8,231 men aged between 50 and 75, all of whom were classed as having an elevated risk of prostate cancer due to heightened levels of PSA but showed no sign of cancer on a recent biopsy, saw participants assigned either a placebo or a daily 0.5 mg dose of dutasteride.
Men prescribed dutasteride were 23 per cent less likely to be subsequently diagnosed with prostate cancer, while men with a family history of the disease saw a greater effect and were 31 per cent less likely.
"Dutasteride may potentially offer many thousands of men a way to reduce their risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer," the study's lead author, Dr Gerald Andriole, chief of urologic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, concluded.
"This means more men could avoid unnecessary treatment for prostate cancer along with the costs and harmful side effects that can occur with treatment."
Dr Andriole added that it is likely dutasteride acts to suppress tumour growth and could even, in some cases, shrink them.
Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK's head information nurse, said: "These are interesting results which suggest this drug might reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men at high risk of the disease. Further research to see if the effects are maintained in the longer term is an important next step."