Archive | October, 2010

New Study Shows Green Tea Catechins Prevent Prostate Cancer Progression

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, shows that catechins (a type of antioxidant found in plants) from green tea are both safe and highly effective for treating pre-malignant prostate lesions prior to developing prostate cancer. Additionally the study showed that administration of green tea catechins also reduced lower urinary tract symptoms, suggesting that green tea catechins may also help symptoms of benign prostate hyperplasia.

Although prior studies showed that green tea catechins (GTCs) are effective in inhibiting cancer growth, this is the first study to show benefit for patients who already show premature symptoms of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in American men. Lifestyle-related factors, especially diet, are major contributors to the development of prostate and other cancers. The study was inspired by several epidemiologic studies of Asian countries, particularly of Japanese and Chinese populations. These studies showed a significant correlation between a diet rich in green tea, low-fat, and high fiber foods with decreased cancer prevalence.

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Single Semen Test May be All that’s Needed Post-Vasectomy

A new study from the Netherlands published in the June issue of the urology journal BJUI shows that a single semen test three months post-vasectomy may be enough for an all-clear.

Scientists looked at semen samples from patients three months post-vasectomy, and discovered that 51% of the samples were free of sperm, and 45% contained less than 100,000 sperm that were immotile (unable to move). Additionally, after a year, none of the 96% cleared men reported getting a woman pregnant.

“Our study clearly shows that three months after vasectomy about half of our patients were still producing sperm, albeit immotile and in very small numbers,” reported study co-author Dr. Herman van Roijen, of the urology department at St. Elisabeth Hospital in Tilburg. “However, our study also showed that the residual sperm are of no clinical consequence.”

“Vasectomy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that provides a widespread, reliable and relatively easy method of birth control,” van Roijen elaborated. “One of the major drawbacks is that a considerable number of men still have a few immotile sperm in their semen for a year or more. Conventional guidelines have stated that clearance can only be given to men who provide one or two sperm-free samples. The fear of legal action if pregnancy does occur has led to very conservative vasectomy protocols.”

“However, our study — based on guidelines issued by the Dutch Urological Association — shows that one semen test is adequate to provide clearance in the vast majority of cases,” van Roijen said.

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Link Between Fish and Decrease in Prostate Cancer Mortality

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United States.  Although the cancer is slow to evolve and is usually not fatal, many men do die from the cancer, sometimes without even knowing they had it.

A current drive toward prostate cancer awareness has taken hold of the country as clinics have opened up and offered prostate screenings, lectures, and brochures.  Men are now reading forums and newsletters with the latest research on how to reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer, and still more are yielding to healthier diets to avoid many diseases, prostate cancer included.

A study recently published on September 15, 2010, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed a relationship between eating fish and prostate cancer risk.

Previous studies have already established a link between higher fish consumption and lower prostate cancer risk.  The latest study published by Konrad M. Syzmanski, David C. Wheeler, and Lorelei A. Mucci was a meta-analysis with a collection of available data from multiple studies.  The researchers included subgroup analyses based on “race, fish type, method of fish preparation, and high-grade and high-stage cancer.”

The team did not find an association between fish consumption and the risk of prostate cancer.  But it did find that higher fish consumption was associated with a reduced risk of death from prostate cancer.  In fact, according to the study, “There was an association between fish consumption and a significant 63% reduction in prostate cancer-specific mortality.”

In addition to this protective effect, some species of fish, particularly oily fish like mackerel, herring, sardines, trout, and salmon, contain large amounts of omega-3 fats.  Experts consistently point out that these fats have anti-inflammatory effects.  And researchers are also in agreement that inflammation is a potential underlying factor in the development of cancer, along with “other pathogenic processes, such as cell proliferation and angiogenesis, the production of new blood vessels that can feed cancer cells.”

Maintaining a diet with high fish consumption may not prevent cancer, or even cure it.  What the study does reveal is that mortality from the cancer is significantly reduced if fish is introduced into the diet.

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Study Shows Elderly or Obese Kidney Transplant Recipients at Increased Risk for Complications

A new study in the Journal of Renal Care shows that kidney transplant recipients from unrelated donors who are obese or over the age of 50 years old are at an increased risk of transplant renal artery stenosis (TRAS), where blood flow to the kidney is impeded by narrowing renal arteries.

The study was conducted in Iran, and researchers also found that having had a previous transplant, elevated triglyceride levels, cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and delayed graft function also substantially increased the risk of TRAS.

“TRAS is an important cause of sustained and severe high blood pressure after kidney transplants” said Dr Ashkan Heshmatzade Behzadi from the Iran University of Medical Sciences.

“It accounts for three-quarters of all post-transplant vascular complications and can be corrected with surgery or angioplasty. It usually occurs within two years of surgery, but can happen at any time. Our study set out to discover what increases the risk of late onset TRAS — more than three months after surgery — in living unrelated donor kidney recipients.”
The patients had an average age of 40, but ranged in age from 16 to 17. Around seven per cent of the test subjects developed TRAS compared with the 93% who did not.

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Chemotherapy Treatment May Cause a Second Malignancy

According to Dr. Otis Brawley, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, “It is ironic, but true, that many cancer chemotherapies are known to cause cancers.”

Cancer researchers have been striving for a cure or even a safe, effective treatment for cancer for centuries.  Chemotherapy is one of the most largely used cancer treatments, yet the process of chemotherapy may in fact cause secondary cancers.

Dr. Brawley explains that the recommending physician must weigh the options and choose chemotherapy only in the best interest of the patient.  Chemotherapy is known to physicians, nurses, and even pharmacists who mix the cancer chemo treatments to cause harm, and they take precautions to minimize exposure to the drugs.

Carcinogenic drugs increase the long-term risk of leukemia and lymphoma only slightly.  But some of the cancer treatments have other significant side effects.  Doxorubicin can cause congestive heart failure as well as leukemia.  Cyclophosphamide increases the risk of bladder cancer because the kidney filters it into the urine and the drug sits in the bladder.  Because of these adverse effects of chemotherapies, lots of hydration must occur during the treatment.  Water helps flush the drugs out and decreases the bladder’s exposure.

“A mutagen is a physical force that damages genetic material (DNA),” explains Dr. Brawley.  “The physical force can be radiation or a chemical.  The change in genetic material is called a mutation, and things that can change genetic material are called mutagenic.”  Brawley admits that chemotherapies may be mutagenic, but so is sunlight as it can damage the DNA of skin cells, which leads to skin cancer.

If the genetic material is damaged, then the functions of the cell cannot be carried out, so the cell usually dies.  However, if damage to a gene is caused in such a way so that the cell does not die but, instead, begins to undergo uncontrolled reproduction, then cancer may develop.  The immune system is on the lookout for aberrant cells, but if the uncontrolled cells go unnoticed, then they can begin dividing and reproducing themselves, leading to cancer.

Chemotherapies are designed to get into these uncontrolled cells undergoing constant division and growth.  The goal of the treatment is to damage the cells so that they can no longer reproduce.  Several types of drugs are used to damage the cells and are called cytotoxic drugs.  For example, the drugs called taxanes are used to treat breast and lung cancer by interfering with the cells’ gene structure.  Drugs such as doxorubicin, etopiside, and cyclophosphamide are commonly used chemotherapy drugs that damage the DNA chain.

Now, when patients present an original form of cancer, they are at higher risk for getting a second cancer from the beginning, even before treatment.  Some studies in medical literature estimate that 20 percent of long-term cancer survivors eventually develop a second cancer.  The reason for this higher risk is “due to the fact that people who get cancer have demonstrated a problem in their genes,” explains Dr. Brawley.

“An identical copy of the problematic genes is in every cell of the patient’s body.  These other genes are at risk of losing control and developing cancer.  Also, cancer patients may get cancer because their immune system is not able to conduct good surveillance for aberrant cells and destroy them.”  Thus, as chemotherapy is a type of mutagen and may cause the specific type of cell damage that leads to uncontrolled reproduction and grown of the cell, a second cancer may develop through the chemotherapy treatment.

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Low-Fat Diet May Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer

According to a study lead by a team of researchers at Jonsson Cancer Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, a diet high in unhealthy types of fats is a potential cause of prostatic diseases, which includes benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer.

The researchers focused on mice that were fed a diet high in fat from corn oil.  Corn oil is primarily comprised of omega-6 fatty acids, which is the type of polyunsaturated fat found in processed baked goods and fried foods.  This type of fat should not be confused with omega-3 fatty acids, which are the healthiest fats and are found in fish, or monounsaturated fats, which are found in almonds, pecans, cashew nuts, peanuts, avocados, olive oil, and canola oil.

In the study, researchers fed one group of mice a diet with 40 percent of calories coming from fat, which is similar to the amount found in a typical Western diet.  The second group of mice received 12 percent of their caloric intake from fat.  The results showed a 27 percent lower incidence of prostate cancer in the low-fat diet group.  Further, precancerous cells grew at a much slower rate in the low-fat diet group, compared to those in the high-fat group.

In a supplemental study, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, MS, PhD, and colleagues found that high-fat diets actually activate a protein complex which leads to prostatic inflammation.  The researchers noted that when non-obese mice were fed a high-fat diet for four, eight, and 12 weeks, they exhibited significant increases in the protein complex activation, prostate weight, and prostate expression of inflammation when compared with mice that were fed a regular diet.

While most of the information has come from mice studies, researchers say that the finding translates to people.  Human clinical trials will be following shortly to prove that lowering dietary fat intake results in an increase in levels of a protein that slows prostate cancer development by reducing the amount of growth factor that encourages prostate cancer.

“A low-fat, high-fiber diet combined with weight loss and exercise is well known to be healthy in terms of heart disease and is known to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, so that would be a healthy choice to make,” said Dr. William Aronson, a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher and the UCLA study’s senior author.  “Whether or not it will prevent prostate cancer in humans remains to be seen.”

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Cranberry for a Healthy Prostate

According to a new study from the Czech Republic, cranberries may provide men’s prostates with protection from disease.  The British Journal of Nutrition published the results from a study conducted by scientists from Palacky University in Olomouc.  The team reported that six months of supplementation with 1,500 mg per day of dried powdered cranberries significantly improved measures of prostate health.

Several other significant improvements were reported in the Czech study, including improvements in the International Prostate Symptom Score, quality of life measures, urination parameters, and lower levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA).  The PSA is a marker used to screen for prostate cancer and for tracking the disease after its diagnosis.

Dr. Jitka Vostalova, head of the research team, explains, “Our trial is the first to evaluate cranberry in the treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) specifically in men with benign hyperplasia (BPH), elevated PSA levels and non-bacterial prostatitis.”  Dr. Vostalova continues, “Unlike currently used medication for prostatitis and LUTS, cranberry has no adverse effects.  Our findings may assist men suffering from LUTS, and also their clinicians, to decide on a treatment that is both inexpensive and natural, like cranberry.”

Researchers have already established a link between urinary tract health and cranberries, and they understand that the benefits are associated with cranberries’ proanthocyanidin (PAC) content.  In 2004, France approved a health claim for the North American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon), which contains at least 36 mg of PAC, to “help reduce the adhesion of certain E. coli bacteria to the urinary tract walls.”  Scientists in France also agreed that this process is what fights urinary tract infections.

The study conducted in the Czech Republic extends cranberries’ effectiveness to prostate health, improves our understanding of cranberries, and indicates a unique role for the red fruit.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia and chronic prostatitis are conditions that prove problematic for the lower urinary tract system.  Both are non-cancerous, and BPH is a swelling in the prostate gland of older men.  In fact, BPH is quite common and affects millions of men in the United States over the age of 50, with an estimated aggregate cost of $1.1 billion annually.

“The results of the present trial are the first firm evidence that cranberries may ameliorate LUTS, independent of benign prostatic hyperplasia or C-reactive protein level,” note researchers of the study.  No longer is cranberry solely for women’s health, and men with prostate issues may now begin to see a market expansion of supplements that include cranberry in their ingredients.

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Male Menopause: Myth or Fact?

Menopause has long been used to indicate the “end of monthly cycles” in women.  Typically, menopause occurs in women who are in their late 40s or early 50s, and it signals the end of the fertile phase of a woman’s life.  But physicians are now stating that men, too, can experience a form of menopause.

Doctor’s are noticing an increase in the number of men each year who are complaining of sexual dysfunction, weight gain, fatigue, depression and other vague symptoms.  In fact, doctors are reporting that more male patients are receiving hormone therapy with testosterone in order to alleviate the symptoms associated with “male menopause.”

The idea of male menopause is not unanimously accepted, however.  While men do experience lower testosterone levels as they age, and many symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction occur, researchers have not reached a consensus on whether or not these symptoms are related to testosterone loss.

“I think the question that arises is how much of this is related to hormones and how much of it is the facts of life that we experience with age,” explains Dr. Thomas Walsh, an assistant professor and director of male reproductive and sexual medicine at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.

Dr. Walsh indicates that up to four million men in the United States have low testosterone, but only a minority actually receives treatment for it.

Men experience testosterone loss at a much more gradual rate than women experience reproductive hormone loss.  Males can actually make sperm into their eighties or longer, which means they remain fertile for much longer periods of time than women.  Further, at the onset of menopause for women, cessation of ovarian function occurs, resulting in a halt of ova release, uterine lining creation, and menses.  This is certainly not the case for men.  And all women eventually go through this menopause, while testosterone does not decline for all men.

Because of these crucial differences between a woman’s menopause and “male menopause,” Dr. Robert Brannigan, an associate professor of urology at the Northwestern University Feinburg School of Medicine, and other specialists like him prefer the term “late-onset hypogonadism.”

The argument is that men are not experiencing a complete and permanent physiological shutting down of the reproductive system.  Instead, as men age a decrease in Leydig cells occurs.  These cells are what produce the testosterone; however, testosterone is still being produced from the remaining Leydig cells.  Dr. Brannigan states that he is seeing more men suffering from late-onset hypogonadism.  But he believes that more questions need to be answered, such as whether or not the increase is due to an increased prevalence of the condition or rather an increase in public awareness, before we can link it to an increase in presentation of a normal aging male condition similar to female menopause.

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