Men’s Supplements Offer No Benefit in Prostate Cancer

November 4, 2015

For men with prostate cancer undergoing radiation therapy, consumption of men’s health supplements are unlikely to prevent adverse events, metastasis, or cancer-related death.

For men with prostate cancer undergoing radiation therapy, the consumption of men’s health supplements is unlikely to prevent adverse events, metastasis, or cancer-related death. The results of the study were presented at 57th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), held last month in San Antonio, Texas (abstract 2492).

At a median follow-up of 46 months, men with prostate cancer who took dietary supplements marketed as “men’s health,” “men’s formula,” or “prostate health” had no difference in biochemical failure, cancer-free survival, or overall survival. Many of the supplements were being marketed as “clinically proven” even though the supplements were not tested in scientific studies. This excluded multivitamins.

The study included data on 2,301 men with localized prostate cancer who received intensity-modulated radiation therapy for their disease between 2001 and 2012. Nicholas Zaorsky, MD, resident physician in radiation oncology at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, and colleagues compiled data on these men, 10% of whom were taking men’s health supplements either during treatment or up to 4 years following their prostate cancer therapy.

“Men with prostate cancer commonly use these pills because of the high incidence of prostate cancer, the stress associated with the diagnosis, the desire to benefit from all potential treatments, and the limited regulation on marketing and sale of the supplements,” said Zaorsky in a statement. “Despite the widespread use of men’s health supplements, no prior study had examined their effect on men with prostate cancer,” he added.

Men who reported using supplements were less likely to have either diabetes or heart disease (P < .05).

The most common ingredient, found in 91% of the marketed prostate cancer and men’s supplements was palmetto, a plant extract often marketed as a treatment for an enlarged prostate. Yet, there are conflicting data published on the effects of palmetto on enlarged prostate symptoms and no substantial data on its utility for prostate cancer.

Other supplements had either ingredients found in regular multivitamins (5%) or no identifiable ingredients (4%).

“Although we did not see a change in adverse effects, there have been thousands of cases in the United States where supplements have harmed patients, so we urge men to take caution when they walk down grocery store aisles and see bottles of pills labeled ‘men’s health’ or ‘prostate health,’” said Zaorsky.

Unlike drugs and biologics, dietary supplements are not reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration, allowing manufacturers of these products to make potentially unsubstantiated claims.