Hormone therapy for prostate cancer increases risk of fatal heart problems

Friday, October 23, 2009 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: hormone therapy, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) According to the National Institutes of Health, "The appropriate treatment for prostate cancer is not clear." However, men who have prostate cancer that has spread beyond the prostate gland or who have had a recurrence of their disease are routinely subjected to a specific treatment anyway -- hormone therapy, which consists of either surgical or, more commonly, a kind of pharmacologic castration. This shuts down the source of the male hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT or 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone, a male hormone that is converted from testosterone within the prostate) believed to be fueling the cancer.

Side effects of this chemical castration can be devastating, including reduced or total lack of sexual desire, impotence, weakness and fatigue, loss of muscle mass, growth of breast tissue, hot flashes, depression and osteoporosis. Now there's new research showing the hormone-blocking approach used to treat men with prostate cancer has yet another dark side: It results in a dramatically increased risk of serious and often deadly heart problems.

Scientists meeting at Europe's biggest cancer congress, dubbed ECCO 15 - ESMO 34, in Berlin recently announced the findings of the largest and most comprehensive study to date on the issue. Bottom line: the researchers said physicians should consider the risk of cardiovascular side effects when they prescribe hormone therapy for prostate cancer patients. In fact, they should refer patients to a cardiologist before starting treatment.

For the study, headed by cancer epidemiologist Mieke Van Hemelrijck of King's College in London, the researchers looked at the records of 30,642 Swedish men with locally advanced or metastatic prostate cancer who had received hormone therapy as the primary treatment for their disease between 1997 and 2006. The men were followed for about three years and the scientists studied their risk of developing ischemic heart disease, heart attacks, arrhythmia, heart failure requiring hospitalization, and death from heart disease. Then they compared the rates of heart problems among these prostate cancer patients with those of people in the general Swedish population.

"We found that prostate cancer patients treated with hormone therapy had an elevated risk of developing all of the individual types of heart problems and that they were more likely than normal to die from those causes," Van Hemelrijck said. She added another worrisome point: the heart problems started within only a few months after the men began their hormone therapy.

In all, prostate cancer patients treated with hormone therapy had a 24 percent increased risk of a non-fatal heart attack, a 19 percent increased risk of arrhythmia, a 31 percent increased risk of ischemic heart disease and a 26 percent increased risk of heart failure. The risk of a fatal heart attack was increased by 28 percent, the risk of dying from heart disease soared by 21 percent, the risk of heart failure death was increased by 26 percent and the risk of a fatal arrhythmia was increased by 5 percent.

Men taking anti-androgen therapy (which block testosterone from binding to the prostate cells but still allows some testosterone to circulate in the body) had a somewhat lower risk of heart problems than those on gonadotropin releasing hormone agonist therapy which is a stronger testosterone blocker. The association with heart risk when the testicles were removed was also extra high, similar to those taking the gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist therapy.

But, despite all the dangerous side effects and risks associated with depriving a man of his male hormones, this kind of therapy must be worth it because it cures some men of advanced disease, right? Wrong. In fact, it is not a cure at all.

Hormone therapy medically useless

"Hormone therapy does not cure prostate cancer," the American Cancer Society states on its web site. And a study published in the journal Reviews in Urology by New York University School of Medicine urologists Mark A Perlmutter and Herbert Lepor concluded: "Ultimately, men (with advanced prostate cancer) will develop disease that is refractory to all hormonal manipulations. This is termed androgen-independent prostate cancer."

As NaturalNews has covered repeatedly, there are numerous natural and non-toxic ways men can help protect themselves from prostate cancer and the potentially devastating conventional treatments used to treat the disease. For example, research is mounting that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent the cancer in the first place ( and capsaicin from chili peppers may stop the growth of prostate cancer cells (

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