Many of us take all sorts of dietary supplements with the goal of slowing down and controlling our prostate cancer’s progression. Rarely do we think about the fact that there is no governmental or nongovernmental agency charged with the task of evaluating either the safety or efficacy of the supplements we consume.

Within months after beginning to take a hormonal supplement two men experienced an unusual course of clinically aggressive prostate cancer. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas investigated this rather unusual occurrence.

The researchers evaluated serum levels of total testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone in both men and examined biopsy and metastatic specimens for expression of androgen receptor protein and mutations. After analyzing the supplement’s effect on human prostate cancer cell lines, they discovered that the two men had low hormone levels.

When they looked at the label on the supplement they discovered that (1) the listed ingredients that were not present, (2) misrepresented the concentrations of the ingredients that were present, and (3) did not list all steroid hormones contained in the product. A hormone analysis revealed that the supplement contained testosterone and estradiol, a female sex hormone. The supplement was actually a more potent stimulator of cancer cell growth than testosterone. The researchers tried in vain to stop the prostate cancer cell growth by giving the men increasing the concentrations of bicalutamide (Casodex®).

After filing an adverse events report with the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA issued a warning letter and the manufacture removed the supplement from the market.

The important message is that we must inform our doctors about any herbal or hormonal dietary supplements we are taking or are considering taking. Our doctors must ask us about all prescription and over-the-counter drugs they are routinely using, and this discussion should become part of routine health assessments.

(Source: Clinical Cancer Research, 2008; 14:607-611.)

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW