Men’s Supplements Offer No Benefit in Prostate Cancer

“For men with prostate cancer undergoing radiation therapy, the consumption of men’s health supplements is unlikely to prevent adverse events, metastasis, or cancer-related death. The results of the study were presented at 57th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), held last month in San Antonio, Texas (abstract 2492).

“At a median follow-up of 46 months, men with prostate cancer who took dietary supplements marketed as ‘men’s health,’ ‘men’s formula,’ or ‘prostate health’ had no difference in biochemical failure, cancer-free survival, or overall survival. Many of the supplements were being marketed as ‘clinically proven’ even though the supplements were not tested in scientific studies. This excluded multivitamins.

“The study included data on 2,301 men with localized prostate cancer who received intensity-modulated radiation therapy for their disease between 2001 and 2012. Nicholas Zaorsky, MD, resident physician in radiation oncology at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, and colleagues compiled data on these men, 10% of whom were taking men’s health supplements either during treatment or up to 4 years following their prostate cancer therapy.”

Men's Health Supplements Fail to Improve Prostate Cancer Outcomes

“Using men’s health supplements did not help prevent distant metastases, cancer-related death or adverse events among men undergoing definitive radiation therapy for localized prostate cancer, according to the results of a retrospective study presented at the ASTRO Annual Meeting.

“ ‘Around 50% of the patients we see are on any kind of supplement,’ Nicholas G. Zaorsky, MD, resident physician in radiation oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center, told HemOnc Today. ‘At least 10% are on men’s health supplements. We wanted to understand whether these supplements actually made a difference in terms of outcomes or side effects.’

“The researchers defined men’s health supplements as supplements specifically labeled and marketed with the terms ‘men’s health’ or ‘prostate health.’ These supplements are frequently labeled as having potential anticancer benefits, although no associations have been proven, according to the researchers.”

Selenium Supplement May Increase Risk of Death in Nonmetastatic Prostate Cancer

The gist: Men who are newly diagnosed with non-metastatic prostate cancer might increase their risk of death if they take selenium supplements. That was the conclusion of a recents study of 4,459 patients.

“Selenium supplementation of 140 μg/d or more after diagnosis of nonmetastatic prostate cancer may increase risk of prostate cancer mortality, according to a prospective study following 4,459 men initially diagnosed with nonmetastatic prostate cancer in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1988 through 2010. ‘Caution is warranted regarding usage of such supplements among men with prostate cancer,’ Kenfield et al advised in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute

“The Health Professionals Follow-up Study is a prospective cohort study of 51,529 U.S. male health professionals who were between age 40 and 75 years at the time of enrollment in 1986. Participants completed a baseline questionnaire that included extensive data, including medical history and lifestyle factors such as diet and supplement use, and completed detailed information on the use and dose of supplements every 2 years.

“ ‘Total selenium supplement intake was calculated as the sum from multivitamins and selenium supplements,’ the investigators explained. Total selenium supplement dosage was divided into four categories: nonuser, 1 to 24 μg/d, 25 to 139 μg/d, and ≥ 140 μg/d. ‘We also calculated total duration of use to assess whether the association between selenium supplement use and prostate cancer morality differed by duration,’ the authors noted.”

Cancer Doctors Don't Discuss Herbs, Supplements with Patients

The gist: Herbs and other supplements can have dangerous effects when combined with cancer treatments. For your safety, it is important to let your oncologist know about any herbs or supplements you are taking for your cancer symptoms or for any other purpose.

“Despite concerns about potentially dangerous interactions between cancer treatments and herbs and other supplements, most cancer doctors don’t talk to their patients about these products, new research found.

“Fewer than half of cancer doctors—oncologists—bring up the subject of herbs or supplements with their patients, the researchers found. Many doctors cited their own lack of information as a major reason why they skip that conversation.

” ‘Lack of knowledge about herbs and supplements, and awareness of that lack of knowledge is probably one of the reasons why oncologists don’t initiate the discussion,’ said the study’s author, Dr. Richard Lee, medical director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

” ‘It’s really about getting more research out there and more education so oncologists can feel comfortable having these conversations,’ Lee said.”

New Data Shows Popular Alternative Medicines Can Pose a Risk to Cancer Patients

“The ten most commonly asked about complementary medicines all interact with conventional treatments, potentially posing a threat to patient health and reaffirming the need for complementary or alternative therapies to be discussed between patients and their healthcare provider.

“The new research, being presented on December 3rd at the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia’s (COSA’s) Annual Scientific Meeting, reveals the 10 most commonly inquired about complementary medicines at Melbourne’s Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre all have predicted or actual drug interactions when taken with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or before surgery.

“The research involved an audit of inquiries to the hospital’s Medicines Information Centre from health providers and patients, over two years.

“The 10 most commonly inquired about products or supplements (excluding vitamins and minerals) were: fish oil, turmeric, coenzyme Q10, milk thistle, green tea, ginger, lactobacillus, licorice, astragalus and reishi mushroom.

“Lead researcher and Senior Pharmacist at Peter MacCallum’s Medicines Information Centre, Sally Brooks, said while levels of these substances found in a healthy diet were unlikely to cause contraindications, larger amounts in complementary medicines could.”

Cancer Patients Should Not Hesitate to Speak with Their Doctors About Dietary Supplements

“Many cancer patients use dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals and herbs or other botanicals but often don’t tell their doctor.

“This gap in communication can happen when patients believe that their doctors are indifferent or negative toward their use of these supplements. As a result, patients may find information about dietary supplements from unreliable sources, exposing themselves to unneeded risks. Since information on these dietary supplements is limited, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch describe a practical patient-centered approach to managing dietary supplement use in cancer care in a review article. Improving the communication between patient and doctor in this area is critical. The article was published in the September edition of Current Oncology Reports.

“Globally, people spent an estimated $96 billion on dietary supplements in 2012 and the National Institutes of Health devoted $855 million during fiscal years 2009-2011 to research on this topic. Despite ongoing research, little is known about the effectiveness of dietary supplements in cancer care. Regardless, many studies have confirmed that most patients undergoing cancer therapy use self-selected forms of complimentary and integrative medicine such as dietary supplements.

” ‘Doctors need to understand why patients with cancer use dietary supplements in the first place. Patients tend to use these supplements because they want to do everything possible to feel hopeful, empower themselves, enhance the body’s natural defenses, use less toxic treatments, or reduce side effects of mainstream treatments,’ said Dr. Victor Sierpina, UTMB professor of family medicine. ‘In fact, most patients choose to use dietary supplements to improve their quality of life rather than seeking a cure for their disease.’ “

Soy Intake May Adversely Affect Gene Expression in Early Breast Cancer

The gist: Researchers performed a clinical trial—a research study with volunteer patients—to test the effects of soy supplements on women with early-stage breast cancer. Their findings raise concerns that, for some women, soy could affect gene expression that could potentially contribute to cancer growth.

“In a randomized study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Shike et al found that soy supplementation resulting in high genistein levels was associated with overexpression of the tumorigenic growth factor receptor FGFR2 and genes that drive cell cycle and proliferation pathways…

“In the study, 140 women with early-stage breast cancer were randomly assigned to receive soy protein supplementation (25.8 g soy protein powder twice a day, n = 70) or placebo (25.8 g milk protein twice a day, n = 70) for 7 to 30 days from diagnosis until surgery. Adherence was determined by the plasma isoflavones genistein and daidzein, the major phytoestrogens of soy. Gene expression changes were evaluated by NanoString in pre- and post-treatment tumor samples. Genome-wide expression analysis was performed on post-treatment samples, and proliferation (Ki67) and apoptosis (Cas3) were measured by immunohistochemistry…

“The investigators concluded: ‘Gene expression associated with soy intake and high plasma genistein defines a signature characterized by overexpression of FGFR2 and genes that drive cell cycle and proliferation pathways. These findings raise the concerns that in a subset of women soy could adversely affect gene expression in breast cancer.’ ”

Soy Supplementation Adversely Effects Expression of Breast Cancer-Related Genes

“Soy supplementation alters expression of genes associated with breast cancer, raising concerns that soy could have adverse effects in breast cancer, according to a new study published September 4 in the JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“The impact of soy consumption on breast cancer prevention and treatment is not clear although many women believe soy supplementation is beneficial based primarily on results from epidemiological studies. Moshe Shike, M.D., from the Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, NY, and colleagues conducted a randomized placebo-controlled study of the effects of soy supplementation on gene expression and markers of breast cancer risk among women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. The study, run between 2003 and 2007 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, enrolled a total of 140 patients who were randomized to either soy supplementation (soy protein) or placebo (milk protein), which lasted from the initial surgical consultation to the day before surgery (range=7-30 days). Tumor tissues from the diagnostic biopsy (pre-treatment) and at the time of resection (post-treatment) were then analyzed. They observed changes in several genes that promote cell cycle progression and cell proliferation among women in the soy group.

“The authors conclude, ‘These data raise concern that soy may exert a stimulating effect on breast cancer in a subset of women.’ ”

Total Darkness at Night is Key to Success of Breast Cancer Therapy

“Exposure to light at night, which shuts off nighttime production of the hormone melatonin, renders breast cancer completely resistant to tamoxifen, a widely used breast cancer drug, says a new study by Tulane University School of Medicine cancer researchers. The study, ‘Circadian and Melatonin Disruption by Exposure to Light at Night Drives Intrinsic Resistance to Tamoxifen Therapy in Breast Cancer,’ published in the journal Cancer Research, is the first to show that melatonin is vital to the success of tamoxifen in treating breast cancer.

“Principal investigators and co-leaders of Tulane’s Circadian Cancer Biology Group, Steven Hill and David Blask, along with team members Robert Dauchy and Shulin Xiang, investigated the role of on the effectiveness of tamoxifen in combating human breast cancer cells implanted in rats.

” ‘In the first phase of the study, we kept animals in a daily light/dark cycle of 12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of total darkness (melatonin is elevated during the dark phase) for several weeks,’ says Hill. ‘In the second study, we exposed them to the same daily light/dark cycle; however, during the 12 hour dark phase, animals were exposed to extremely dim light at night (melatonin levels are suppressed), roughly equivalent to faint light coming under a door.’ ”