As both the baby boomers (born between 1944 and 1964) and Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1983) age, there will be increasing concerns about the various health problems that come along with aging.
For men who fall into either of these age categories, issues such as prostate cancer are likely to be at the top of their list of health concerns.
The statistics around prostate cancer paint a telling picture as to why you should expect to have your older male patients asking you about how they can bolster themselves against this disease. What are the statistics regarding prostate cancer, and what’s the latest research on this disease that is the source of concern for many of your male patients?
Prostate cancer statistics
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer for men, behind only non-melanoma skin cancer. It is also one of the leading causes of death from cancer among all races, including the Hispanic population.1 In 2015, more than 28,000 men died from prostate cancer, and more than 183,000 new cases of prostate cancer were reported.2 This was an increase of more than 8,000 new cases from the more than 175,000 cases reported just two years prior, in 2013.
Signs for concern
Some symptoms for prostate cancer include frequent urination, weak urine flow, or blood in the urine or semen.3 These symptoms are similar for the more commonly occurring conditions prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Men under the age of 50 are most likely to suffer from prostatitis, or an inflamed or irritated prostate, and men over the age of 50 are more likely to have BPH or prostate cancer.4
Common supplements for symptoms
Beta-sitosterols are probably the best-known of the supplements for prostate health. In a 2000 meta-analysis, the authors reviewed a number of small studies on this topic, in order to find commonalities across the findings. The health outcomes of a total of 519 men with BPH, from four studies, were examined. The researchers note, “the evidence suggests non-glucosidic B-sitosterols improve urinary symptoms and flow measures.”5 An added benefit, oral beta-sitosterols has shown to lower cholesterol by 10 to 15 percent.6
Pygeum, also known as African plum extract, pygeum may reduce nighttime urges to urinate, as well as improve urine flow.
The authors of a 2002 meta-analysis found that men who took pygeum had nearly a 20% reduction in nighttime urges to urinate and over a 20 percent increased peak urine flow. They concluded: “A standardized preparation of Pygeum africanum may be a useful treatment option for men with lower urinary symptoms consistent with benign prostatic hyperplasia.”7
Saw Palmetto is the most promising supplement for addressing prostate cancer. It is extracted from a small palm tree that is native to the southeastern U.S. Although saw palmetto can also be used to treat BPH, there has been some recent research into its ability to slow the growth of prostate cancer.8
A 2007 study tested a saw palmetto extract on lab mice with prostate cancer. They found that saw palmetto induced apoptosis, or cellular death, in the prostate tumors. They concluded: “These results indicate that Saw Palmetto might be useful for the treatment of individuals with prostate cancer.”
Research appears to be active in this area and we should see new information on these and other supplements for men’s health. Biological changes are inevitable as the body ages. Men will likely see these changes in areas including their prostate health. Fortunately, there are currently supplements to help improve symptoms or even prevent them from worsening.
The National Cancer Institute recently released an update to its periodic Physician Data Query (PDQ) summaries, which provide an overview of the latest research on cancer.3 The most recent update, from May of this year, focused on a number of dietary supplements that show some promise in helping treat prostate cancer. Below are just a few of the research articles included in the update.
Green tea catechins: A 2016 article in the journal Oncotarget looked at the side-effect profile for green tea catechins in treating prostate cancer.4 Several preclinical studies had reported adverse side effects from green tea catechins, which the researchers believed had impeded further investigation. In order to determine the severity of side effects, the researchers administered a green-tea catechin supplement, twice daily, to 97 men with prostate cancer. At the end of the one-year study, the authors concluded, “The current data provides evidence of safety of decaffeinated, catechin mixture containing 200 mg EGCG BID to be further tested for prostate cancer prevention or other indications.”
Lycopene: A 2018 meta-analysis article in Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Disease looked at the possible effect of lycopene (the active ingredient that gives tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables their bright red color) on the risk of developing prostate cancer among a group of 42 studies.5 A meta-analysis looks at the results from a number of smaller papers in order to determine if there is a pattern of similarity to the results. In doing so, it helps strengthen the power of each of the individual results by showing that they all have a certain commonality. The researchers found there to be a common result among all the papers of an inverse relationship between lycopene levels and risk of prostate cancer.5 In other words, the higher the study subjects’ dietary and circulatory levels of lycopene, the lower their risk of prostate cancer. For a number of these studies, subject took lycopene supplements to ensure the correct dose each time.
There’s no question that getting older often means feeling its effects in terms of health. This can include urinary problems as a result of prostate issues for your older male patients. However, new and exciting research shows that nutritional supplements may provide safe, effective alternatives to standard treatments.
- Prostate cancer statistics. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Updated June 2018. Accessed July 2018.
- Prostate cancer. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Updated Updated June 2018. Accessed July 2018.
- PDQ Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. PDQ Prostate Cancer, Nutrition, and Dietary Supplements. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/prostate-supplements-pdq. Updated May 2018. Accessed June 2018.
- Kumar NB, Pow-Sang J, Spiess PE, et al. Randomized, placebo-controlled trial evaluating the safety of one-year administration of green tea catechins. Oncotarget. 2016;7(43):70794-70802.
- Rowles JL 3rd, Ranard KM, Smith JW, et al. Increased dietary and circulating lycopene are associated with reduced prostate cancer risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Disease. 2017;20(4):361-377.