What causes prostate cancer

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In Autumn 2003 Cancer Research UK issued a press release about a finding on Prostate Cancer. Within this press release, the head scientist at Cancer Research was quoted as saying, "We do not know what causes prostate cancer".


Open quotesProstate cancer is set to become the Western world’s number one
cancerClose quotes

This may come as alarming news to the increasing numbers of men over 50 in the Western world who are being treated for the disease. If you don’t actually know what causes it, how can you treat it with any degree of accuracy?

Prostate cancer is set to become the Western world’s number 1 cancer. Although various agencies will state that the lifetime risk is just one in thirteen or 7/8 per cent, these figures are not borne out in reality once a man hits the ripe old age of 50. For him, his chances of being diagnosed are more like 33 per cent. In the USA it approaches 40 per cent.

When we asked the Helpline at the Prostate Cancer Charity in Hammersmith for the reasons for the epidemic they answered, oblivious to the tautology, that this was due to better diagnosis! In fact this is just not the case. Men over 50 are subjected to ’Digital Rectal Examinations’. This state of the art testing procedure merely tells you the offending gland is swollen. Then follows a PSA test. At best this is 70 per cent accurate. Exercise or dairy consumed in the previous 24 hours can give false and high readings setting off the alarm bells. Professor Julian Peto of Oxford University (and Cancer Research UK) at a recent conference to cancer carers said 90 per cent of doctors under 35 surveyed on the PSA test won’t bother to have one when they get to 50 because it is so inaccurate. Even scans are less than perfect as a friend of mine can testify to. He was rushed in because of secondaries on the scan, only to find there were none.

But then the charities in both the USA and the UK are united with statements such as "90 per cent of all prostate cancers are slow-growing and can be left for ten years or more". In Los Angeles, one infamous research study looked at men over 50 years of age who were killed in car crashes. Over half were driving around with prostate cancer totally oblivious to the disease!


Open quotes90 per cent of all prostate cancers are slow-growing and can be left for ten years or moreClose quotes

On one occasion when I spoke on the subject, a doctor from Salisbury approached me. "I’ve been a doctor for over 30 years and for the last ten or so when patients had prostate cancer, I’ve been telling them it is linked to high testosterone levels. Now I’ve got it myself, I’ve searched everywhere, but I can find absolutely no evidence that testosterone either causes or spreads prostate cancer. What is the truth?"

Well, 2003 was a very good year for research studies into prostate cancer and we do now understand it much better.

We have reported before that Swedish research shows a direct line correlation between dairy consumed and prostate cancer risk. Now the Singapore National Cancer Centre (March 2003) have shown that IGF within milk is linked to prostate cell proliferation (but not necessarily malignancy - although the NCI in the USA says it is linked).

Glass of milk

Other studies this year from the Monash Cancer Institute in Australia concluded that localised oestrogen drives prostate cancer, although you have to have both oestrogen and testosterone present. Meanwhile the Singapore National Cancer Centre have also shown that anti-oestrogen drugs actually can reduce the size of an enlarged prostate. So clearly oestrogen is a major influence in prostate cancer.

The Concord Cancer Centre in Sydney went a step further. It concluded that oestrogen caused prostate cancer; and like a number of other studies produced research to show that oestrogen and oestrogen mimics (chemicals that surround us everyday and once they enter our bodies also mimic the action of oestrogen) are responsible for decreased sperm counts. Russian research from the Moscow Cancer Centre shows that oestrogen mimics also deplete folic acid levels, while the Athlone Technology Institute in Ireland has shown they weaken our immune systems.

But last month came the explanation from Dr Thompson from the University of Texas Cancer Centre in Houston. Testosterone is not the poisoner of our prostates. Localised oestrogen converts this natural hormone into DHT, a highly carcinogenic factor, which does the damage. Anti-oestrogens like ICI or Finasteride can stop this conversion (although in a very few cases, as yet why is unknown, Finasteride causes increased rampancy). Maybe natural progesterone would be a safer way of reducing a man’s oestrogen levels, who knows?

But then we have it. A female hormone (and toxic chemicals that mimic it) causing everything from decreased sperm counts to prostate cancer.

A man rushed up to me after my speech. He’d been given synthetic progesterone ’to reduce his testosterone levels’. Right drug, wrong reason. But then if you say you don’t know the cause, why is the medical world supplying a treatment?

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