A study conducted by Swiss researchers found that men treated for prostate cancer might increase their risk of developing colon cancer. But fortunately, that’s only a factor if you choose a form of treatment that I’ve warned you against before.
Watchful waiting vs. hormone therapy
When a man is first diagnosed with prostate cancer, many times his oncologist will suggest what’s often referred to as “watchful waiting.” And this is a good decision.
In most cases, prostate cancer grows slowly. And the truth is unless you happen to have a rare form of the cancer you’re far more likely to die with prostate cancer than from it. That is, unless you follow an aggressive course of treatment called androgen deprivation therapy or ADT.
It sounds technical. But it’s not.
Androgens are male hormones. And testosterone is the main male androgen. Men need it for many reasons and sexual function is just one small part.
In fact, testosterone is critical in regulating a man’s:
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Heart health
- Mental sharpness
- Muscle and bone mass
- Brain function
But androgen deprivation therapy aims to reduce androgens in the male body. That’s because cutting off a man’s testosterone shrinks the prostate and blocks the growth of prostate cancer.
There are two basic ways doctors accomplish this feat. (If your doctor suggests either one, run for the hills. I’ll explain more about that in a moment.) Your first option is to have your testicles removed. This is called an orchiectomy. Clearly, this is not something that I favor in any way. And thankfully, it’s not something most men choose.
Your second option is to take a drug called a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) antagonist. This may sound less painful, but the result is just as bad.
The Swiss study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, showed that both forms of ADT could raise your colorectal cancer risk.
ADT was linked to a 30 to 40% increase in colorectal cancer
For the study, Swiss scientists analyzed data on 108,000 men with prostate cancer. All of the men were older than 67 and had been diagnosed with prostate cancer between 1993 and 2002. In addition, all of the men had taken a GnRH antagonist or received an orchiectomy.
After analyzing the data, researchers found a 30 to 40 percent increase in colorectal cancer risk in these men. So by following ADT, these men may have traded prostate cancer — not likely to have killed them — for a far more deadly form of cancer.
Now, it’s true that orchiectomy is rarely used. Most men just won’t go for it… and with good reason. But GnRH antagonists are often prescribed to men who don’t want to go under the knife. It’s important to remember, though, that these drugs don’t cure prostate cancer; they just shrink the tumors.
Eligard is one kind of GnRH antagonist. And one of the worst, if you ask me. According to the drug company’s own clinical trials, men who used Eligard for just two to four weeks saw testosterone levels drop to below the “castrate threshold.”
This means that Eligard–in just two to four weeks–can push your testosterone so low, it’s as if you’ve been castrated! (And, oh yes, it shrinks your prostate gland as well…because you’ve got no testosterone left in your body.)
Therefore, the FDA warning attached to the drug should come as no surprise. Taking a GnRH antagonist may raise your risk of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. Plus, according to the National Cancer Institute study, we can now add colon cancer to that list of possible outcomes.
ADT is treatment that should be reserved only for aggressive advanced forms of the disease.
Safer options for prostate cancer
As I said earlier, watchful waiting (or as I like to call it, “active surveillance”) is often your best option. According to a 2009 study of nearly 15,000 men with prostate cancer, this tactic clearly had its benefits. In fact, in that study, 94 percent of the men who adopted active surveillance had at least a 10-year-survival rate.
According to Timothy J. Wilt, MD, this study “reinforces accumulating evidence that the vast majority of men with prostate cancer detected by PSA testing have a very good prognosis and are unlikely to die of their cancer or suffer serious medical consequences from disease spread at 10 or more years, even if not treated with surgery, radiation, or hormone therapy.”
He went on to say, “This study also supports the view that many men are detected and treated who are unlikely to benefit, and thus may undergo harms that exceed benefits.”
If you ever receive a prostate cancer diagnosis I want you to do three things.
- take a deep breath
- remind yourself that most prostate tumors never cause trouble
- work with a doctor skilled in natural medicine to come up with plan for monitoring, and if necessary, treating your tumor.
Drive down your prostate cancer risk with diet
If you’re looking for ways to arm yourself against prostate cancer start with modifying your diet.
Focus on foods that are rich in vitamin K. You can get plenty of K1 by eating green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale. And fermented cheese (like feta), butter, sauerkraut, organ meats and egg yolks are rich in K2.
And be sure to eat more tomatoes and tomato products. Tomatoes are rich in the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene.
Aim for ten servings a week to reduce your prostate cancer risk by 18 percent, according to a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. You can easily add more tomatoes to your diet by eating fresh tomatoes, tomato juices and tomatoes sauces.
Plus eat plenty of nuts. One of my favorite studies, published in the journal BMC Medicine, found that eating nuts everyday reduced prostate tumor growth by 30 to 40 percent. Talk about a delicious “prescription.”
Dr. Allan Spreen
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