Prostate Cancer, Nutrition, and Dietary Supplements (PDQ®)

Last modified: 2014-06-11
Last downloaded: Monday, July 28, 2014

Introduction

Men in the United States get prostate cancer more than any other type of cancer except skin cancer. It is found mainly in older men. In the United States, about one out of five men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die of it.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a form of treatment used in addition to (complementary) or instead of (alternative) standard treatments. CAM treatments generally are not considered standard medical approaches. Standard treatments go through a long and careful research process to prove they are safe and effective, but less is known about most types of CAM.

CAM use among prostate cancer patients is reported to be common. CAM treatments used by prostate cancer patients include certain foods, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, and minerals.

This PDQ CAM summary gives general information about using foods and dietary supplements to lower the risk of developing prostate cancer or for treating prostate cancer, its symptoms, or side effects of disease treatment. In addition, this summary has sections for several specific foods or dietary supplements:

More topics will be added over time. These sections include the following information for each food or dietary supplement:


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Overview of CAM Use in Prostate Cancer

Studies of CAM use to treat prostate cancer have shown the following:

  • Men who have prostate cancer are more likely to take dietary supplements than men who do not have prostate cancer.
  • Prostate cancer patients with the healthiest eating habits (for example, eating lots of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vegetables) are the most likely to take dietary supplements.
  • Reasons given by prostate cancer patients for using CAM treatments include boosting the immune system, improving quality of life, and lowering the risk of the cancer coming back.

Studies of CAM use to lower the risk of developing prostate cancer or to prevent it from coming back have shown the following:

  • A study of men with a family history of prostate cancer found that over half used vitamins or other dietary supplements, including those sold for prostate health or cancer prevention, such as some of those listed in this summary.
  • A study of men at a prostate cancer screening clinic found that well over half took multivitamins and a smaller number took herbal supplements.
  • A study of prostate cancer survivors found that up to one-third took vitamins or minerals.
  • Although many prostate cancer patients use CAM therapies, only about half of them tell their doctors about their use of CAM.

Studies of why prostate cancer patients do or don't decide to use CAM show that their choice is based on many factors, including their medical history, their beliefs about the safety and side effects of CAM compared to standard treatments, and their need to feel in control of their treatment.


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Questions and Answers About Green Tea

Current Clinical Trials

Check NCI’s list of cancer clinical trials for CAM clinical trials on green tea for prostate cancer and green tea extract for prostate cancer that are actively enrolling patients.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


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Questions and Answers About Lycopene

Current Clinical Trials

Check NCI’s list of cancer clinical trials for CAM clinical trials on lycopene for prostate cancer that are actively enrolling patients.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


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Questions and Answers About Modified Citrus Pectin

Current Clinical Trials

Check NCI’s list of cancer clinical trials for CAM clinical trials on modified citrus pectin for prostate cancer that are actively enrolling patients.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


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Questions and Answers About Pomegranate

Current Clinical Trials

Check NCI’s list of cancer clinical trials for CAM clinical trials on pomegranate-extract pill for prostate cancer, pomegranate juice for prostate cancer, and pomegranate liquid extract for prostate cancer that are actively enrolling patients.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


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Questions and Answers About Selenium

Current Clinical Trials

Check NCI’s list of cancer clinical trials for CAM clinical trials on selenium for prostate cancer that are actively enrolling patients.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


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Questions and Answers About Soy

Current Clinical Trials

Check NCI’s list of cancer clinical trials for CAM clinical trials on soy isoflavones for prostate cancer and soy protein isolate for prostate cancer that are actively enrolling patients.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


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Questions and Answers About Vitamin D

Current Clinical Trials

Check NCI’s list of cancer clinical trials for CAM clinical trials on vitamin D for prostate cancer that are actively enrolling patients.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


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Questions and Answers About Vitamin E

Current Clinical Trials

Check NCI’s list of cancer clinical trials for CAM clinical trials on vitamin E for prostate cancer that are actively enrolling patients.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


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Questions and Answers About Zyflamend


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Other Prostate Health Supplements

Overview

Many widely available dietary supplements are marketed to support prostate health. African Cherry (pygeum africanum) and beta-sitosterol are two related supplements that have been studied as possible prostate cancer treatments.

African Cherry / P. africanum

African cherry or Pygeum africanum is a tree that grows in tropical climates. It is found in a number of African countries including Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda, and Nigeria. Bark from the P. africanum tree was used by African tribes to relieve urinary symptoms and stomach pain. In the 18th century, European travelers learned from South African tribes that P. africanum could treat bladder discomfort and “old man’s disease” (enlarged prostate).

Since 1969, bark extracts from P. africanum have been available as prescription drugs in Europe and have been widely used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The bark contains a number of compounds including fatty acids and phytosterols (e.g., beta-sitosterol). The bark is processed and purified as an extract.

Laboratory studies and animal studies have shown that two substances in bark extract from P. africanum are active in blocking cells from taking up androgen. The antiandrogen activity found in P. africanum is at a markedly lower concentration than the antiandrogen activity found in flutamide (an anticancer drug).

Beta-Sitosterol

Beta-sitosterol is a plant substance found in P. africanum, saw palmetto, and various nuts, beans, and seeds. It is a type of phytosterol (plant sterol) and has a chemical structure similar to cholesterol. Phytosterols, including beta-sitosterol, limit the amount of cholesterol that can be absorbed from the diet and they are being studied for their potential to protect against cardiovascular disease.

Studies suggest that phytosterols may have anticancer activity, but their exact actions are unknown. Phytosterols may affect immune and hormonal systems or may directly target cell cycles and cause cell death in tumors.

Laboratory studies have shown that certain concentrations of beta-sitosterol markedly slow the growth of human prostate cancer cells and cause cancer cell death.


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Changes to This Summary (06/11/2014)

The PDQ cancer information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.

Changes were made to this summary to match those made to the health professional version.


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General CAM Information

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)—also referred to as integrative medicine—includes a broad range of healing philosophies, approaches, and therapies. A therapy is generally called complementary when it is used in addition to conventional treatments; it is often called alternative when it is used instead of conventional treatment. (Conventional treatments are those that are widely accepted and practiced by the mainstream medical community.) Depending on how they are used, some therapies can be considered either complementary or alternative. Complementary and alternative therapies are used in an effort to prevent illness, reduce stress, prevent or reduce side effects and symptoms, or control or cure disease.

Unlike conventional treatments for cancer, complementary and alternative therapies are often not covered by insurance companies. Patients should check with their insurance provider to find out about coverage for complementary and alternative therapies.

Cancer patients considering complementary and alternative therapies should discuss this decision with their doctor, nurse, or pharmacist as they would any therapeutic approach, because some complementary and alternative therapies may interfere with their standard treatment or may be harmful when used with conventional treatment.


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Evaluation of CAM Approaches

It is important that the same rigorous scientific evaluation used to assess conventional approaches be used to evaluate CAM therapies. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) are sponsoring a number of clinical trials (research studies) at medical centers to evaluate CAM therapies for cancer.

Conventional approaches to cancer treatment have generally been studied for safety and effectiveness through a rigorous scientific process that includes clinical trials with large numbers of patients. Less is known about the safety and effectiveness of complementary and alternative methods. Few CAM therapies have undergone rigorous evaluation. A small number of CAM therapies originally considered to be purely alternative approaches are finding a place in cancer treatment—not as cures, but as complementary therapies that may help patients feel better and recover faster. One example is acupuncture. According to a panel of experts at a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Conference in November 1997, acupuncture has been found to be effective in the management of chemotherapy-associated nausea and vomiting and in controlling pain associated with surgery. In contrast, some approaches, such as the use of laetrile, have been studied and found ineffective or potentially harmful.

The NCI Best Case Series Program, which was started in 1991, is one way CAM approaches that are being used in practice are being investigated. The program is overseen by the NCI’s Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM). Health care professionals who offer alternative cancer therapies submit their patients’ medical records and related materials to OCCAM. OCCAM conducts a critical review of the materials and develops follow-up research strategies for approaches deemed to warrant NCI-initiated research.


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Questions to Ask Your Health Care Provider About CAM

When considering complementary and alternative therapies, patients should ask their health care provider the following questions:

  • What side effects can be expected?
  • What are the risks associated with this therapy?
  • Do the known benefits outweigh the risks?
  • What benefits can be expected from this therapy?
  • Will the therapy interfere with conventional treatment?
  • Is this therapy part of a clinical trial?
  • If so, who is sponsoring the trial?
  • Will the therapy be covered by health insurance?

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To Learn More About CAM

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) facilitates research and evaluation of complementary and alternative practices, and provides information about a variety of approaches to health professionals and the public.

NCCAM Clearinghouse
Post Office Box 7923 Gaithersburg, MD 20898–7923
Telephone: 1–888–644–6226 (toll free) 301–519–3153 (for International callers)
TTY (for deaf and hard of hearing callers): 1–866–464–3615
Fax: 1–866–464–3616
E-mail: info@nccam.nih.gov
Web site: http://nccam.nih.gov

CAM on PubMed

NCCAM and the NIH National Library of Medicine (NLM) jointly developed CAM on PubMed, a free and easy-to-use search tool for finding CAM-related journal citations. As a subset of the NLM's PubMed bibliographic database, CAM on PubMed features more than 230,000 references and abstracts for CAM-related articles from scientific journals. This database also provides links to the Web sites of over 1,800 journals, allowing users to view full-text articles. (A subscription or other fee may be required to access full-text articles.) CAM on PubMed is available through the NCCAM Web site. It can also be accessed through NLM PubMed bibliographic database by selecting the "Limits" tab and choosing "Complementary Medicine" as a subset.

Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine

The NCI Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) coordinates the activities of the NCI in the area of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). OCCAM supports CAM cancer research and provides information about cancer-related CAM to health providers and the general public via the NCI Web site.

National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Information Service

U.S. residents may call the NCI Cancer Information Service toll free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. A trained Cancer Information Specialist is available to answer your questions.

Food and Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates drugs and medical devices to ensure that they are safe and effective.

Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857
Telephone: 1–888–463–6332 (toll free)
Web site: http://www.fda.gov/

Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces consumer protection laws. Publications available from the FTC include:

  • Who Cares: Sources of Information About Health Care Products and Services
  • Fraudulent Health Claims: Don’t Be Fooled
Consumer Response Center
Federal Trade Commission
CRC-240
Washington, DC 20580
Telephone: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) (toll free)
TTY (for deaf and hearing impaired callers): 202-326-2502
Web site: http://www.ftc.gov/

Back to TopSource: The National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query (PDQ®) Cancer Information Summaries (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq)