An 18-year study of a drug previously known to reduce the risk of prostate cancer confirms that the drug lowers the chances of developing the cancer.
The drug cut the risk by 30 percent in men, according to the study done by the Cancer Therapy and Research Center in San Antonio.
The drug, Proscar, produced by Merck & Co. (MRK) in its generic form is finasteride and is used to treat urinary problems due to prostate enlargement.
Previously, the drug was known reduce the risk of prostate cancer, but noticed a rise in tumors — which caused concern. Reserachers concluded that the drug only made the tumors easier to find once the prostate was reduced with help from the treatment.
From the Associated Press:
Experts say [the drug] could prevent tens of thousands of cases each year, saving many men from treatments with seriously unpleasant side effects. …
Researchers assigned 18,882 men 55 or older with no sign of prostate cancer on blood tests or a physical exam to take finasteride or dummy pills for seven years. When the study ended, those who had not been diagnosed with prostate cancer were offered biopsies to check for hidden signs of the disease.
For the new analysis, researchers tracked the study participants for a longer time – 18 years in all since enrollment began. Only about 10 percent of men on finasteride developed prostate cancer versus 15 percent of those on dummy pills. Aggressive tumors were found in 3.5 percent of men on the drug versus 3 percent of the others. Yet 78 percent of both groups were alive after 15 years.
In lower doses, the drug is marketed as Propecia, used to treat hair loss.
Though the drug could be used to help older men in the fight against cancer, there are a list of potential side effect, which can include hot flashes and a reduced sex drive.