Originally published November 23 2009
Scientists Find Prostate Cancer Biopsies Often Not Needed
by Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
(NaturalNews) This may well be remembered as the year medical "facts" about prostate cancer were shown to be riddled with wrong assumptions and downright myths. As readers of NaturalNews know, for example, recent studies have shown little if any benefit to regular prostate cancer screening tests (http://www.naturalnews.com/026787_cancer_Pro...) with hundreds of thousands of men being over-diagnosed and over-treated with a potentially deadly malignancy when they actually have no lethal disease. Now comes even more startling news about the wrong-headedness of standard prostate cancer care.
It is common for men with elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels to face biopsies. But scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered that elevated PSA measurements are not necessarily potential signs of prostate cancer at all. Instead, they can simply be caused by a hormone normally occurring in healthy bodies.
According to a study just published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, the researchers discovered that parathyroid hormone, which the body produces to regulate blood levels of calcium, can raise PSA levels in healthy men who do not have prostate cancer. Unfortunately, elevated PSA levels currently set off alarm bells in the mainline medical establishment, leading many men to be biopsied and then treated unnecessarily with surgery, chemo, radiation, and/or emasculating hormones.
"PSA picks up any prostate activity, not just cancer," said lead investigator Gary G. Schwartz, Ph.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of cancer biology, epidemiology and prevention at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in a statement to the press. "Inflammation and other factors can elevate PSA levels. If the levels are elevated, the man is usually sent for a biopsy. The problem is that, as men age, they often develop microscopic cancers in the prostate that are clinically insignificant. If it weren't for the biopsy, these clinically insignificant cancers, which would never develop into fatal prostate cancer, would never be seen."
The research team investigated data from 1,273 men who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 to 2006. At the time of the survey, none of the research subjects reported any current infection or inflammation of the prostate gland, prostate biopsy in the past month, or history of prostate cancer. The scientists adjusted their findings for age, race and obesity because PSA levels rise with age, are higher in African-American men, and lower in overweight males.
The results? The higher the level of parathyroid hormone measured in the blood, the higher the PSA levels. And when men had parathyroid levels that were normal, but at the high end of the normal scale, their PSA measurements were increased by 43% -- a range that, when seen by most urologists, would be used to justify immediate biopsies. The bottom line, according to Dr. Schwartz: "It's likely that there are a lot of men out there with elevated PSAs that may be due to elevated parathyroid hormone rather than prostate cancer."
The findings are especially important for black men, the researchers stated, because about 20% of them have high parathyroid hormone levels compared to about 10% of Caucasians. And that results in African-American men being placed at a higher risk for unnecessary biopsies and over-treatment.
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About the authorSherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.
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