GINA KOLATA, in her continuing series in the New York Times, on the war against cancer, published in today’s edition another story that has great relevance for us advanced prostate cancer survivors. The story is about American’s failure to take certain drugs that have been demonstrated to prevent cancer while Americans are very happy to pay for, consume unproven supplements, and make diet modifications that also have not been proven effective.

Her very first example is prostate cancer. Even though prostate cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States and more than 27,000 of us will die from it this year, many men fail to take a drug that has been proven to have the potential to prevent many cases!

She went on to write, “A large and rigorous study found that a generic drug, finasteride, costing about $2 a day, could prevent as many as 50,000 cases each year. Another study found that finasteride’s close cousin, dutasteride, about $3.50 a day, has the same effect.

As the nation’s war on cancer continues, with little change in the overall cancer mortality rate, many experts on cancer and public health say more attention should be paid to prevention.

But prevention has proved more difficult than many imagined. It has been devilishly difficult to show conclusively that something simple like eating more fruits and vegetables or exercising regularly helps. And, as the response to the prostate drugs shows, people are not enthusiastic about taking anticancer pills, or are worried about side effects or not really convinced the drugs work. Others are just unaware of them.”

So you say, what is the difference to me, I already have prostate cancer? Well, should not you consider our brothers and of course what about our male children? There is evidence that prostate cancer has genetic links, so if you are diagnosed your family members are at a higher risk for developing prostate cancer. Putting aside the economic impact that prostate cancer does have on our family and on the society, what about the pain and suffering it will cause, shouldn’t we want them to dodge this bullet?

Dr. Ian M. Thompson Jr., chairperson of the urology department at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antoniosaid, “A scientific discovery that is very clear cut and that is not implemented by the public is a tragedy,”

Why are not our brothers and sons being encouraged by their doctors and families to start taking these drugs that have been proven to limit the number of prostate cancers? Is it because our doctors do not know or just do not care? I cannot answer that question, but it needs answering. It needs answering now.

My father’s only brother died from prostate cancer; his son, my only cousin on that side of the family was treated; my father was diagnosed and treated and my grandfather died from what was described in his obituary as prostate problems. I have an one older brother who, to date, has managed to escaped our family plague of prostate cancer. When I asked him if his doctor ever recommended that he take either finasteride or dutasteride he said no, never has the issue been raised! Wow, who more than my brother needs to be on one of these drugs?

I am now “beating up my brother” and will continue until he goes to his internist and demands that he be given a prescription. If he does not, he will be in for one constant nightmare from his younger brother.

What about your brother(s) or your adult male children, are they doing what they need to do to protect them? If not, do you want me to get on them? Let me know, I will help.

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW