Saw palmetto supplement use and prostate cancer risk

Nutr Cancer. 2006;55(1):21-7. doi: 10.1207/s15327914nc5501_3.


Saw palmetto is an herb used to treat the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. In vitro studies have found that saw palmetto inhibits growth of prostatic cancer cells and may induce apoptosis. To evaluate whether saw palmetto supplements are associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer, we conducted a prospective cohort study of 35,171 men aged 50-76 yr in western Washington state. Subjects completed questionnaires between 2000 and 2002 on frequency of use of saw palmetto supplements and saw palmetto-containing multivitamins over the previous 10 yr in addition to other information on supplement intake, medical history, and demographics. Men were followed through December 2003 (mean of 2.3 yr of follow-up) via the western Washington Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results cancer registry, during which time 580 developed prostate cancer. Ten percent of the cohort used saw palmetto at least once per week for a year in the 10 yr before baseline. No association was found between this level of use of saw palmetto and risk of prostate cancer development [hazard ratio (HR) = 0.95; 95% confidence interval = 0.74-1.23] or with increasing frequency or duration of use. In this free-living population, use of commercial saw palmetto, which varies widely in dose and constituent ratios, was not associated with prostate cancer risk.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Androgen Antagonists / administration & dosage*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prostatic Hyperplasia / epidemiology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Serenoa
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Washington / epidemiology


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Plant Extracts
  • saw palmetto extract