Purpose of review: Prostate cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed visceral cancer in men in the United States, with almost 200,000 newly diagnosed cases in 2003. Prevention of this disease would have a major impact on disease-associated cost, morbidity, and mortality for a large segment of the population. A major advance in prevention of prostate cancer came in 2003 with the publication of the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. This overview summarizes the results of that trial, the design of other large-scale trials, and advances in understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the effect of other promising agents.
Recent findings: The Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial demonstrated that use of finasteride is associated with a 25% reduction in the 7-year period prevalence of prostate cancer in men over age 55 years with normal digital rectal exam and initial prostate specific antigen <3.0 ng/ml. Use of finasteride was associated with a slightly higher risk of Gleason sum 7-10 tumors, some sexual side effects, and fewer urinary symptoms. A substantial body of new molecular evidence supports the existing body of clinical and epidemiological data leading to testing of vitamin E and selenium as preventative agents in men at risk for prostate cancer. Epidemiologic and molecular evidence also makes cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors, lycopene, soy, and green tea promising agents.
Summary: Results of a population-based, randomized phase III trial demonstrates that finasteride can prevent prostate cancer. A large amount of data supports the use of other agents as potential preventatives, including selenium, vitamin E, vitamin D, other 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors, lycopene, and green tea. Some of these agents are being tested in new large-scale phase III clinical trials.