Prostate cancer news report: Thursday, May 14, 2009

News reports today cover such issues as:

  • Vitamin D and its possible role in development of prostate cancer
  • Genetic testing among hereditary prostate cancer families
  • Sex hormone levels and cognitive function in older men

Gupta et al. have published a detailed review of the epidemiological relationships between vitamin D levels in men and prostate cancer risk. To provide context for this review, the paper also gives background information on vitamin D, such as its dietary sources, metabolism, optimal levels, and other factors. Prostate cells contain vitamin D receptors as well as enzymes necessary for vitamin D metabolism. Because vitamin D metabolites are known to have biological effects on prostate cancer cell lines, there is interest in whether vitamin D has a role in the etiology of prostate cancer.

Harris et al. have explored issues that affect interest in genetic testing in nearly 1,000 men from hereditary prostate cancer families. Family members with prostate cancer (n = 559) and their unaffected male relatives (n = 370) completed a mailed survey. A total of 252/559  affected men (45 percent) and 207/370 unaffected men (56 percent) reported that they definitely would take a genetic test for prostate cancer. Affected men reported greater familiarity with genetic testing than unaffected men (46 vs. 25 percent). Familarity with genetics clearly appeared to have a positive effect on interest in undergoing testing and suggests the need for greater education about the value of genetic testing among members of hereditary prostate cancer families.

Alibhai et al. have studied the relationship between various sex hormones and cognitive function in 198 older men (mean age 69.2 years, median education 16 years) with and without prostate cancer. None of these men were being treated with androgen deprivation therapy. They found that levels of total testosterone, bioavailable testosterone, and estrogen in these men did not appear to be related to cognitive function. This study calls into question the idea that hormone therapy in prostate cancer patients has a direct impact on cognitive function because of its impact on sex hormone levels, and suggests that there must be some secondary explanation for this effect.

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