Perspective from Stacy Loeb, MD, MSc
Perspective from Sumanta Kumar Pal, MD
October 19, 2015
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Men’s health supplements fail to improve prostate cancer outcomes

Perspective from Stacy Loeb, MD, MSc
Perspective from Sumanta Kumar Pal, MD
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Using men’s health supplements did not help prevent distant metastases, cancer-related death or adverse events among men undergoing definitive radiation therapy for localized prostate cancer, according to the results of a retrospective study presented at the ASTRO Annual Meeting.

“Around 50% of the patients we see are on any kind of supplement,” Nicholas G. Zaorsky, MD, resident physician in radiation oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center, told HemOnc Today. “At least 10% are on men’s health supplements. We wanted to understand whether these supplements actually made a difference in terms of outcomes or side effects.”

The researchers defined men’s health supplements as supplements specifically labeled and marketed with the terms “men’s health” or "prostate health." These supplements are frequently labeled as having potential anticancer benefits, although no associations have been proven, according to the researchers.

Zaorsky and colleagues sought to evaluate the impact of men’s health supplements on patient outcomes and adverse events among men undergoing definitive intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) for localized prostate cancer.

Study endpoints included freedom from biochemical failure, freedom from distant metastases, disease-specific survival (DSS), OS, and genitourinary and gastrointestinal toxicities.

The researchers evaluated data from 2,207 patients treated at a NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center who consented to have their information stored in a prospective database.  Men received a median IMRT dose of 78 Gy between 2001 and 2012, and 10% (n = 217) of men reported using men’s health supplements.

Median follow-up was 46 months.

Researchers performed online searches to determine the ingredients in men’s health supplements. The supplements included a median of three identifiable ingredients (range, 0-78), the most common of which was palmetto (91%). Unidentifiable ingredient names included “other,” “trade secret enzyme” and “prostate complex.”

None of the supplements evaluated had received FDA approval or had been studied in a published report.

The researchers reported that the use of men’s health supplements did not influence any outcomes. A similar proportion of men who did not and who did use supplements experienced events related to biochemical failure (9% vs. 8%), distant metastases (3% vs. 2), DSS (1% for both) and OS (9% vs. 5%).

Further, the use of men’s health supplements did not reduce the rates of grade 3 to grade 4 genitourinary (6% vs. 5%) or GI (1% vs. 0) adverse events.

“Physicians should speak to patients about all of the medications they are on, including supplements,” Zaorsky said. “Sometimes patients will not consider supplements to be medications that could affect their outcomes or side effects. We are also hoping that supplement companies will provide clear messages to their consumers. If a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer and he sees a men’s health supplement on the shelf, he might see the words ‘clinically proven’ on the bottle and think he should take it. The companies making these pills should be more transparent and not create a false message.” – by Cameron Kelsall

For more information:

Nicholas G. Zaorsky, MD, can be reached at Fox Chase Cancer Center, 333 Cottman Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19111; email: Nicholas.zaorsky@fccc.edu.

Reference:

Zaorsky NG, et al. Men’s health supplement use and outcomes among men receiving definitive intensity modulated radiation therapy for localized prostate cancer. Presented at: ASTRO Annual Meeting; Oct. 18-21, 2015; San Antonio, TX.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.