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What works for prostate cancer

MagazineMarch 2010 (Vol. 20 Issue 12)What works for prostate cancer

As part of my osteopathy curriculum in thelate 1960s at Johannesburg College, in South Africa, I was taught the benefitsof various electromedical interventions such as galvanic and faradic currents,shortwave diathermy and ultra-sound therapy

As part of my osteopathy curriculum in the late 1960s at Johannesburg College, in South Africa, I was taught the benefits of various electromedical interventions such as galvanic and faradic currents, shortwave diathermy and ultra-sound therapy. I remember how the class tutor for ultrasonography extolled the virtues of ultrasound therapy for prostate cancer, and paraded before us students a variety of patients who had apparently gone into remission after receiving the treatment.

Yet, although I have continued to keep the ultrasound apparatus to hand in my clinic, I have never used it because the evidence appeared to be entirely too anecdotal. This now appears to have changed.

In a new study of 172 men with organ-confined cancer of the pros-tate, the patients were treated with high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) and discharged five hours (on average) later.

HIFU uses high-frequency sound-waves to kill cancer cells by heating small areas of tissue to tempera-tures of 80 to 90 degrees C.

Remarkably, the researchers could find no evidence of disease in more than 90 per cent of the patients after just one HIFU session. What's more, the men experienced far fewer adverse effects than seen with conventional surgery or radiotherapy: there were no reports of any bowel problems; only 1 per cent suffered inconti-nence and about 35 per cent experienced impotence. With surgery or radiotherapy, up to 20 per cent become incontinent and around 50 per cent are impotent.

The authors concluded that HIFU is a minimally invasive, day-case technique that can achieve good outcomes in the short term. However, long-term outcomes still require further evaluation in much larger numbers of patients (Br J Cancer, 2009; 101: 19-26).

So, although more research is needed, it appears that this simple, virtually non-invasive ultrasound treatment may be better than the currently available treatments for prostate cancer. (Please note that my ultrasound equipment is differ-ent from the HIFU used in the trial). Nevertheless, other alterna-tives to surgery and radiotherapy may be useful, too.

Cancer-fighting nutrients

One of the most effective support nutrients is lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red colour, and is also the main source of carotene in the diet of most Europeans. However, lycopene is also found in paw-paw (papaya), pink grapefruit, red paprika, rosehips, strawberries, cranberries, watermelon, Galia melons, peri-peri, guava, pimiento peppers, harissa, plums, damsons, raspberries, bell peppers, peaches, cherries and apricots, to name but a few.

In the reddest fruits and vege-tables, lycopene concentrations may be as high as 60 mg/kg, but may be as low as 5 mg/kg in the more yellow versions of the same fruits and vegetables. Lycopene is relatively stable during cooking and food-processing. It's also a potent scavenger of free radicals, hence its anti-cancer effects. Being eaten with pumpkinseed oil improves its uptake (Cancer Res, 1999; 59: 1225-30).

Supplementing lycopene along with vitamin E may also have therapeutic effects against prostate cancer. When 26 men with localized prostate cancer were given either 15 mg of lycopene and vitamin E twice a day or no supplementation (controls) for three weeks, PSA levels were decreased by 18 per cent in the supplemented group, but increased by 14 per cent in the controls (Biochem Biophys Res Commun, 1998; 250: 582-5).

When vitamin E levels are adequate, I generally recommend 30 mg/day of lycopene to slow the growth of prostate cancer.

Besides lycopene and vitamin E, a number of rigorous-ly conducted scien-tific studies have shown protective effects against the development of prostate cancer, as well as the slowing of any further growth of established prostate cancer, with the addition into the diet (or supplementation) of omega-3 fatty acids and selenium (Br J Cancer, 1999; 81: 1238-42; Br J Urol, 1998; 81: 730-4).

Other essential supplements that appear to work against prostate cancer are calcium D-glucarate, indole-3-carbinol and ground linseed (called 'flaxseed' in the US).

Men who have been prescribed antihormonal drugs, such as Casodex (bicalutamide) or Eulexin (flutamide), would do well to take extra calcium, and engage in weight-bearing and resistance exercise in the gym to prevent osteoporosis.

Lifestyle changes

Studies also suggest that avoiding smoking tobacco and cannabis, cutting down on alcohol and exercising regularly may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Furthermore, there have been so many convincing studies linking diet and prostate cancer that Dr William Fair (who died of colon cancer in 2002) and his colleagues suggested more than a decade ago that prostate cancer should perhaps be considered a "nutritional disease" (Urology, 1997; 50: 840-8). In fact, dietary factors are known to alter sex-hormone levels, detoxication mechanisms and the entire antioxidant status of the body in general.

Harald Gaier

Harald Gaier, a registered naturopath, osteopath, homeopath and herbalist, practises at The Allergy and Nutrition Clinic, 22 Harley Street, London, and the Irish Centre of Integrated Medicine, Co. Kildare (www.drgaier.com).

Vol. 20 05 August 2009


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