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Research on Prevention

Researchers are looking for ways to prevent prostate cancer:

  • Diet: Some studies suggest that eating foods that have tomatoes in them may help protect men from prostate cancer. Lycopene is an antioxidant in tomatoes and some other fruits and vegetables. Research is in progress to see if lycopene can help prevent prostate cancer. A diet low in fat is also under study.
  • Dietary supplements: The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) is studying these two supplements. The goal of the study is to learn whether these supplements can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Drug: The Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial was a large study to test a drug that doctors thought might lower the risk of prostate cancer. The drug is finasteride. In the study, the drug did reduce the chance of developing prostate cancer. However, men who developed prostate cancer while taking the drug were more likely to have tumors that seemed to be high-grade. High-grade cancer grows and spreads more quickly than low-grade cancer. Researchers are now studying tumors from men in the study to see if they were really high-grade or only looked that way. If you are concerned about getting prostate cancer, you may want to talk with your doctor about the potential benefits and possible risks of taking finasteride. You also may consider taking part in another prostate cancer prevention trial.

Research on Screening

Researchers are studying ways to check for prostate cancer in men who have no symptoms. Screening can help find prostate cancer at an early stage. But studies have not shown whether screening saves lives. The Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO) is designed to show if certain screening tests can reduce the number of deaths from these cancers. NCI supports this study. The prostate screening tests that PLCO is studying are the PSA test and digital rectal exam. Researchers will screen the men in the study until 2007. The trial will assess the harms and potential benefits of routine screening for prostate cancer. The results of this trial may change the way men are screened for prostate cancer.

Research on Treatment

Researchers are studying many types of treatment and their combinations:

  • Surgery: Different methods of surgery are being developed:
    • Robotic prostatectomy: The doctor uses a laparoscope and a surgical robot to help remove the prostate.
    • Cryosurgery: Surgeons use a tool that freezes and kills prostate tissue in men with early prostate cancer.
  • Radiation therapy: Doctors are studying different doses of radiation therapy. They are looking at the use of radioactive implants after external radiation. And they are combining radiation therapy with hormone therapy.
  • Hormone therapy: Researchers are studying different schedules of hormone therapy.
  • Biological therapy: Doctors are testing cancer vaccines that help the immune system kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Researchers are testing anticancer drugs and combining them with hormone therapy.
  • Watchful Waiting: Men with early prostate cancer usually do not have any symptoms of disease. For these men, researchers are comparing having surgery or radiation right away against watchful waiting. Men in the watchful waiting group do not receive treatment until they have symptoms. The results of the study will help doctors know whether to treat early stage prostate cancer right away, or only if symptoms appear or get worse.

Researchers also are looking at ways to lessen the side effects of treatment, such as bone thinning and impotence.

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