Supplements don’t work to treat prostate cancer (according to new review)


In an entirely unsurprising finding, “Despite dietary supplements being popular among prostate cancer patients, a new review of past research says they are not effective treatments for the disease” states a Reuters report published on Friday last week.

This Reuters report is based on an article by Pozadski et al. published in the journal Maturitas. However, any review article like this is only as good as the studies that have actually been carried out, and there have been very few good studies investigating the effects of dietary supplements in the actual treatment of prostate cancer (as opposed to in the prevention of prostate cancer).

While it is, frankly, unlikely that any one dietary supplement is going to be any sort of “cure-all” for prostate cancer (or for any other cancer for that matter), it is also true that many patients — and some doctors — feel strongly about the benefits of certain types of supplement in the management of prostate cancer (e.g., vitamin D and the salvestrols).

The problem, of course, is that there is little good clinical evidence (and none from randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trials) to support these beliefs to date. As a consequence, Dr. Eric Klein, an expert in the prevention and management of prostate cancer at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, is quoted by Reuters as having stated that the new review’s findings are consistent with past research:

I think if you survey the literature on nutritional supplements and cancer, there is almost no evidence that they’re helpful. In fact, some people have found that there is evidence of harm.

9 Responses

  1. Then why is mistletoe liquid used extensively in Europe to treat prostate cancer patients?

  2. I’ve kept my PSA numbers down for almost a year now. Healthy eating, excercise, and supplements are the cause, I believe, with plenty of anti-oxidants in my diet, as well as supplements for lycopene, selenium, vitamins D and E, etc.

  3. Mike,

    No surprise and, as you state, not everyone agrees. There may also a psychological benefit for patients who feel empowered by being able to do something proactive.

  4. I asked an oncologist about dietary measures “against” prostate cancer recurrence or speeding up, more than 4 years ago. I was told that only lycopene even came close to being suspected as valuable. Several months ago I read in New Scientist that the stuff has been shown to kill prostate cancer cells in some test-tube preparation, not in men. I asked again and the oncologist just shrugged, suggesting that nothing is known that definitely helps. Having good reason to trust this person, I now eat and drink whatever I want, whenever I feel like it.

  5. No surprise but there are good studies if anyone is interested. The MEAL trial is still accruing prostate cancer patients and I hear updates at every monthly SWOG meeting of the need for more accrual. So for any newly diagnosed patients that are looking at active surveillance — you can look at the protocol for the MEAL trial, in which a healthy balanced and counseled diet is followed and being compared to patients given a standard USDA diet sheet. I think we will be seeing some interesting results with that one.

  6. Following our recent publication I had an interview with Reuters in which I said that “by no means is the evidence [for the effectiveness of dietary supplements in prostate cancer] conclusive. I was also asked whether any of these supplement combinations could help. I replied that these supplement combinations are rather useless in the treatment of prostate cancer.

    I was also asked what sort of recommendations I would offer for such patients? My only recommendation for prostate cancer patients would be a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet. This includes reduced caloric intake, diet low in animal fats, animal proteins (including dairy), and rich in fruits and vegetables. Other “natural substances” might include green tea, pomegranate seed, turmeric or capsaicin.

    Please visit my blog for more information.

  7. My experience contradicts that. I have had great results (so far) with a healthy diet as you describe, as well as supplements. From a peak PSA of 2.8 (resulting in biopsy diagnosis), mine since have been 1.7, 1.25, and 1.5. The one-year-since-diagnosis PSA test was done yesterday. Results to follow.

  8. Dear Walt:

    Yes … but if you have been eating a healthy diet, how do you know that the supplements have made any difference?

  9. Good point Sir! Of course, you are right, but, as someone on AS that is fighting the fight, I prefer the “shotgun” approach. More = Better.

    :-)

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