Hormonal Prostate Cancer Treatment May Double the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology comprising a large-scale analysis of medical records revealed that men undergoing androgen deprivation (hormonal) therapy (ADT) for prostate cancer treatment may be at almost twice the risk of eventually developing Alzheimer’s disease, and that the increased likelihood of the disease is proportional to ADT duration.  The researchers emphasized that their findings do not prove that ADT increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease but clearly point to that possibility.  It is thought that low levels of testosterone produced by androgen deprivation (hormonal) therapy may diminish the body’s protective effect on brain cells.  There may also be evidence suggesting that the production of amyloid beta, a protein involved in Alzheimer’s pathogenesis, increases as testosterone levels diminish. The researchers are not suggesting that today’s clinical practice of treating prostate cancer with hormonal therapy be changed.  However, it adds another potential undesirable side effect to those already associated with ADT such as osteoporosis, cardiac effects, loss of muscle mass and metabolic syndrome.  See the entire article as published in the December 14th issue of Prostate Cancer News Weekly Digest.

A Must Read for Men Over 40: An Excellent Introduction to Prostate Cancer

Autumn in North Carolina; photo by James Johnson
Autumn in North Carolina; photo by James Johnson

Are you a man over 40 years of age and you are either concerned about or simply have some questions about prostate cancer?  Hopefully you may never need treatments of any kind but being informed is positive.  The November, 2014 Prostate Cancer Research Institute (PCRI) Insights  contains a collection of blogs and videos discussing the topics of prostate screening, prostate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), newly diagnosed cancers, their active surveillance and cancer recurrence.

The screening portion (see link) discusses the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and risks and benefits of screening including a video.  This section also includes information on prostate imaging, 12-core needle prostate biopsies, pathology results as defined by Gleason scores, use of MRI prostate scanning using 3 Tesla (3T) MRI instruments and multi-parametric targeted biopsies (if needed).  A listing of 3T imaging centers is also included.

A second section includes a video discussing PSA values, more information on prostate biopsies, their benefits and side effects, pathology results as defined by Gleason Scores, 3T MRI imaging and targeted biopsies, and a blood test called the 4K test which may be useful in determining aggressive cancers if present.

Another linked section is entitled “Prostate Imaging; So Your PSA is High, What Now?” A listing of 3T imaging centers by city and state is also included in this section.

There is also a video discussing the pros and cons of controversial reduced PSA screening recommendations made in 2012 by a U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.  These recommendations have been met with considerable disagreement and negative commentaries (see June 4th, 2012 blog).

There is also a section with advice on what-to-do if you are newly diagnosed.  Following that, is a section on active surveillance which includes question-and-answer videos from Dr. Mark Scholz, a noted prostate cancer physician as well as testimonial videos from patients.

Concluding sections discuss relapsed and advanced prostate cancer.


Prostate Cancer Patients Undergoing Active Surveillance Are Not Receiving the Proper Follow-Up.

A recent study from UCLA published in the December 1st issue of Cancer, included 3,600 men who had opted for active surveillance in place of aggressive treatment as a means of following the status of their prostate cancer.  The study found that only 4.5% received proper monitoring in collaboration with their physician.  Recommended monitoring includes regular prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening, physical exams and at least one prostate biopsy every two years.  The study urges that before a patient and his physician decide on a prostate cancer strategy of active surveillance, they should mutually commit to closely monitoring the cancer via such PSA testing, physical exams and repeat biopsies as necessary.  A summary of the study was published in MedLine Plus from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  For further details, see the following article published online in Prostate Cancer News Today on December 2nd.  A excellent summary of these developments was also published in Cancer Network of the journal Oncology, December 3, 2015.

The Effect of Stress on Prostate Cancer

The following is an edited version of a November 30th blog from Prostate Snatchers.  While I have experienced stressful episodes in my 20-year cancer experience, I find nothing works better than entrusting my body and its imperfections to its Creator with whom we can have a personal relationship through Jesus Christ.

Whether you are newly diagnosed with prostate cancer, or coping with bone metastases, learning about chronic stress and its negative impact on your body is almost as critical to your healing as whatever treatment you choose.

Short-term stress, a single episode of acute stress, generally doesn’t cause problems. However, chronic emotional stress, caused by situations or events that last over a period of time, takes a significant toll on the body.  Furthermore, this kind of prolonged stress suppresses the immune system, profoundly affecting its ability to detect defective or cancerous cells and destroy them.

Persistent feelings of fear, anxiety and unrelieved stress trigger the fight-or-flight response system that our ancestors relied upon.  When a threat is recognized, heart rate and blood pressure skyrocket, sugar pours into the blood, muscles tense for quick action, and the whole metabolism goes into survival mode. This is great if you’re on the African savannah and you hear a lion growling outside your tent.  However, Nature never intended this “On your mark! Get set! Go!” response to last more than a moment or two.  So when the brain sends a threat message for which there is no swift resolution, the fight-or-flight system stays stuck on “Get set!.”  As a result, the immune system is locked into protection mode and is no longer capable of performing the remedial function that is our most powerful defense against cancer.

So when we feel unable to manage or control the changes in our lives caused by prostate cancer, it not only reduces our quality of life, but it is associated with poorer clinical outcomes.  In fact, studies in mice, and in tests in human cancer cells grown in the laboratory have found that prolonged psychological stress can enhance a tumor’s ability to grow and spread.

There is always the temptation to alleviate the stress overload of a potentially life-threatening diagnosis with risky behaviors such as drinking alcohol in excess, taking drugs, and over-eating. But this kind of “stress management” only further inhibits immune function. However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle—which means eating well and staying physically active–supports the immune system.  As do coping strategies such as prayer.  And don’t forget laughter—the ultimate antioxidant.

Here’s how the Discovery Health Web describes the impact of laughter on the immune system: “When we laugh, natural killer cells which destroy tumors and viruses increase, along with Gamma-interferon (a disease-fighting protein), T cells (important for our immune system) and B cells (which make disease-fighting antibodies).  As well as lowering blood pressure, laughter increases oxygen in the blood, which also encourages healing.”

Cancer Patients Should Avoid Taking Antioxidant Supplements.

The following November 12th, 2015 article comes from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the largest institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Antioxidants are often advertised to prevent the types of free radical damage that have been associated with cancer development.  Multiple large, placebo-controlled, prevention clinical trials have never confirmed this hypothesis.  Instead, evidence from two new studies in mice show that antioxidants may actually promote tumor growth and metastasis.  For full details see the linked article.  As always, this blog is for informational purposes only.  If it applies to your health status, please discuss it with your healthcare provider before taking any actions.