The August 15, 2013 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a follow-up to the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial which found that the drug finasteride, prescribed for prostate hypertrophy and male pattern baldness, lowered the risk of prostate cancer while having no impact on survival.
Finasteride had been reported by researchers involved in the seven-year Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial to reduce the risk of prostate cancer in comparison with placebo; however, a slightly greater percentage of participants who received the drug developed high-grade cancer. This led to a warning concerning the drug being issued by the FDA in 2011.
For the follow-up study, Ian M. Thompson Jr., MD, of the University of Texas and his associates evaluated data from 18,880 participants in the original trial. Information concerning prostate cancer diagnoses was collected for one year following the trial's conclusion, and mortality data was obtained for the participants for a period of up to 18 years following enrollment.
Prostate cancer was diagnosed in 14.9% of the placebo group and 10.5% of those who received finasteride. No significant difference was found in ten-year survival among all subjects and among those with high-grade cancer.
"What that tells us is that in men who take finasteride, a third fewer will be diagnosed with prostate cancer," Dr Thompson commented. "If you look at the number of prostate cancers that are diagnosed annually and multiply that by 30 percent, that's the number of cancers we might be able to prevent each year."
"That's more than 71,000 men," he noted. "That's more than 175 jumbo jets full of men who won't get cancer, who won't face treatments with side effects like sexual dysfunction."
"If we can free thousands of men each year from that unnecessary burden, we could use those resources for other important medical interventions, reducing death and suffering from disease."
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