Men's Health

Calcium and Vitamin D Risky for Prostate Cancer

Even though men using hormone treatment for prostate cancer are at risk for osteoporosis, taking calcium and vitamin D supplements may boost their risk for heart disease and aggressive prostate cancer.

Photo of older man looking at pill bottle

Prostate cancer can be treated in several ways, including using medications that remove or block male hormones that can cause prostate cancer to grow. But these drugs can also cause bone loss. For men using such hormone therapy, taking calcium and vitamin D supplements seemed a good way to help prevent osteoporosis.

But researchers decided to find out if this strategy really worked.

Reviewed trials

They reviewed guidelines for calcium and vitamin D supplements, as well as the results of 12 clinical trials of these supplements involving almost 2,400 men with prostate cancer. All of the men were getting hormone-deprivation therapy. The researchers also examined the men's bone mineral density before and after treatment.

To their surprise, the researchers found that men taking the recommended supplement amounts lost bone density. Moreover, the calcium supplements put the men at higher risk for aggressive prostate cancer and heart disease.

"The wake-up call of these findings," says study co-author Mridul Datta, Ph.D., at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, "is that the presumption of benefit from calcium and vitamin D supplements that have been routinely recommended to these men must be rigorously evaluated."

More research needed

Dr. Datta and lead author Gary Schwartz, Ph.D., say that more research is needed to confirm their findings and the risk of these supplements in prostate cancer treatment. Their study was published in the journal The Oncologist.

Louis Potters, M.D., at North Shore LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y., says hormone therapy isn't for every man with prostate cancer - only those with high-risk or advanced disease.

"And for those men, they need to have a discussion with their physician about the risks of these medications and how best to perhaps mitigate some of those risks," Dr. Potters says.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Cancer Society - How is prostate cancer treated?

National Cancer Institute - Prostate Cancer Treatment Option Overview

The Oncologist - Calcium and Vitamin D Supplementation During Androgen Deprivation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

October 2012

Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Hormone treatment is one way to treat prostate cancer.

Male hormones are called androgens. The main androgens are testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. Prostate cancer cells usually need male hormones to grow. The goal of hormone treatment is to lower the amount of hormones that your body makes or to stop the cancer cells from using them, which may slow or stop the growth of the cancer for some time.

Most prostate cancers are sensitive to hormones. But some men may not respond to the hormone therapy, or their cancer stops responding to the hormone therapy and becomes resistant over time. Switching the type of hormone therapy can often help for a time, but eventually other types of treatment may be needed.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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