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Pros, cons of prostate cancer prevention Rx should be considered

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Findings by University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers encourage men to weigh the potential benefits against the side effects of the drug finasteride (Proscar) before taking it to prevent prostate cancer.

Findings by University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers encourage men to weigh the potential benefits against the side effects of the drug finasteride (Proscar) before taking it to prevent prostate cancer.

In the Jan. 21, 2008 online issue of Cancer, researchers analyzed data gathered by the National Cancer Institute’s Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. The cost effectiveness and quality of life issues associated with taking the drug are not clear cut, said senior author Yair Lotan, MD. The data show that in addition to preventing prostate cancer, finasteride also reduces urinary tract symptoms associated with BPH. However, it also decreased sexual desire and caused impotence in 5% of participants.

“Finasteride is currently the only drug that has been shown to prevent prostate cancer in a large, randomized trial, but is used for this purpose in very few men,” Dr. Lotan said. “A large number of patients are currently taking over-the-counter supplements to prevent prostate cancer, even though there is no scientific evidence to support these products’ claims. It’s important for patients to be aware of this scientific trial and to ask their doctors if finasteride could benefit them.”

In light of the pros and cons, Dr. Lotan said physicians and patients need to work together closely to weigh how finasteride could affect quality of life on a case-by-case basis.

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