A drug known to help treat baldness in men as well as an enlarged prostate may also help protect against prostate cancer. Researchers from Texas found that middle-aged and older men who took finasteride daily for a period of seven years reduced their prostate cancer risk by around one-third as compared to men who took a placebo. The results of the study were published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Finasteride is a drug used to treat male pattern baldness. It is also used to treat enlarged prostate in men. The said drug is said to affect low-grade cancers by preventing the overtreatment of such tumors. Men who took the drug showed a 43 percent reduction in low-grade tumors in the prostate. This is considered as significant with around 200,000 cases of prostate cancer each year.
The study was a follow-up to the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, which tracked around 19,000 male participants with an average age of 62 years. The said trial ended in 2003. Researchers initially reported that men who took finasteride only reduced their prostate cancer risk by 25 percent as compared to a group who took a placebo, slightly less than what researchers recently found.
The new study aimed to compare the long-term survival rate of men who took finasteride and those who did not. The study showed that the survival rates are almost similar with 83 percent of those taking finasteride survived 10 years after diagnosis of low-grade prostate cancers as compared to 81 percent in the placebo group. There is also good evidence that the use of finasteride did not indicate any increase in the development of high-grade cancers.
The results are reassuring since a previous large-scale study on the said drug seems to indicate an increase of high-grade cancer risk. This led to the drug to carry a warning that it may increase the risk of high-grade prostate cancer. The new analysis of the same study has disputed that claim.
The researchers still suggest that men should weigh the risk and benefits of taking finasteride. The drug works by blocking the body’s production of the male hormone testosterone. Finasteride is seen to be quite effective in blocking the hormone in the prostate gland. Because of this, use of the said drug may include side effects such as sexual dysfunction, lack of energy and hot flashes.