Almost one-third of Ontario men with prostate cancer are using complementary medicine in addition to conventional cancer treatment, said a univeristy of Toronto study.
The numbers are a "wake-up call" to clinicians who may think elderly men (those most likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer) are less likely to use complementary medicine, said Professor Heather Boon of the university's Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, and lead author of the study.
"Usually we see younger people and women asthe most common users but clearly it's a phenomenon that's happening in all ages and all genders. Clinicians need to be aware of this and discuss it with their patients."
The study, based on a random sample survey of 696 Ontario men diagnosed with prostate cancer, found that 29.8 per cent of respondents used complementary medicine.
Some 26.5 per cent of those used natural health products, most commonly vitamin E, saw palmetto and selenium.
On the flip side, this finding raises concerns about the potential for adverse interactions, added Boon. "For some of these products, it's not clear whether taking them at the same time as conventional therapy is a good idea or not," said Boon. "In most cases we don't have definitive evidence about whether they're bad or good."
She noted that while saw palmetto, for example, may be useful in themanagement of benign enlarged prostate, it has not been proven effective against prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer, other than skin cancer, among men in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2003, about 220,900 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed and 28,900 men will die of the disease.
Yesterday we reported that the US is to provide $8 million in funding to a Queen's University team investigating herbal treatments for prostate and bladder diseases.
Full findings of the new study are published in the November issue of the journal Urology.