Oestrogen skin patches used to control menopausal symptoms in women may provide a safe alternative therapy for prostate cancer, research has shown.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) patches prevent the growth of prostate tumours by drastically lowering levels of testosterone.
Prostate cancer that is starting to spread is known to be fuelled by the male hormone.
Current treatments include injected drugs called LHRH agonists, such as Zoladex, which interfere with testosterone production, resulting in chemical castration.
However, they can have serious long-term side effects, including the bone thinning disease osteoporosis and diabetes.
Oestrogen - the female sex hormone - taken in a pill form also blocks testosterone production, but can lead to dangerous blood clots and strokes.
Did you read about these breakthroughs last year?
New Advice On Prostate Cancer Screening
This year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/05/21/153234671/all-routine-psa-tests-for-prostate-cancer-should-end-task-force-says">recommended <em>against</em> routine prostate cancer screening</a> for men of all ages, noting its small benefits compared to the harms, published in the <em>Annals of Internal Medicine</em>. "We think the <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/05/21/153234671/all-routine-psa-tests-for-prostate-cancer-should-end-task-force-says">benefit is very small</a>," Dr. Michael LeFevre, a member of the task force, told NPR's Shots blog. "Our range is between zero and one prostate cancer death avoided for every thousand men screened," which is minuscule compared to lives saved for screenings for conditions like colorectal cancer. A study published at the beginning of the year in the <em>Journal of the National Cancer Institute</em> seemed to back up the recommendations, noting that routine prostate cancer screening didn't seem to make a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/06/prostate-cancer-screening-psa-test-deaths-men_n_1190558.html">difference in the risk of dying from prostate cancer</a>, Reuters reported. However, the American Society of Clinical Oncology issued advice after the USPSTF's recommendation, saying that whether a man gets routine prostate cancer screening should <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/17/prostate-cancer-screening-test-man-life-expectancy_n_1679499.html">depend on his life expectancy</a>. For example, men who aren't expected to live more than another 10 years should be discouraged from PSA testing, the Associated Press reported.
PSA Testing Could Mean Fewer Cases Of Deadly Prostate Cancer
To add more to the research on prostate cancer screening, a study in the journal <em>Cancer</em> showed that routine PSA testing is linked with 17,000 fewer cases of the deadliest form of prostate cancer. "By not <a href="http://www.webmd.com/prostate-cancer/news/20120730/study-psa-testing-cuts-worst-prostate-cancers">using PSA tests</a> in the vast majority of men, you have to accept you are going to increase very serious metastatic disease threefold," study researcher Dr. Edward Messing, M.D., the chief of urology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, told WebMD. Specifically, researchers calculated that without routine prostate cancer screenings through PSA testing, 25,000 men would have been diagnosed with <a href="http://www.webmd.com/prostate-cancer/news/20120730/study-psa-testing-cuts-worst-prostate-cancers">metastatic prostate cancer</a> (a deadly form of prostate cancer where it has spread beyond the prostate to elsewhere in the body) in 2008, compared with the 8,000 who were actually diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer that year, WebMD reported.
Working The Night Shift Could Raise Your Risk
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/25/night-shift-prostate-cancer-health_n_2003392.html">Working the night shift</a> is associated with a 2.77-times increased risk of prostate cancer, according to a study in the <em>American Journal of Epidemiology</em>. The study, conducted by Canadian researchers included 3,137 men with cancer and 512 men without cancer. The researchers also found that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/25/night-shift-prostate-cancer-health_n_2003392.html">working the night shift</a> raised the risk of lung, colon, bladder, rectal and pancreatic cancers, as well as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Surgery May Not Be The Best Option For Everyone With Prostate Cancer
Surgery may not always be the best option for men whose prostate cancer is detected with an elevated PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level, according to a study in the <em>New England Journal of Medicine</em>. For men with early prostate cancer who received a <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ProstateCancer/surgery-rarely-best-prostate-cancer-study-suggests/story?id=16805902#.UJrg9m_A_kh">radical prostatectomy</a> (prostate-removal surgery), 47 percent died after 12 years, while 49.9 percent of men who just underwent observation died after 12 years, ABC News reported. Plus 81 percent of men who underwent the radical prostatectomy <a href="http://www.webmd.com/prostate-cancer/news/20120718/prostate-cancer-surgery-may-not-always-up-survival">experienced erectile dysfunction</a> in the two years following, and urinary incontinence plagued 17 percent of the men, WebMD reported. However, ABC News did note that men whose <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ProstateCancer/surgery-rarely-best-prostate-cancer-study-suggests/story?id=16805902#.UJrg9m_A_kh">PSA scores were extremely high</a> -- above 10 -- benefited from receiving surgery, indicating that the study may suggest rather <em>which</em> men may benefit most from receiving a radical prostatectomy for their prostate cancer.
Aspirin Could Help Prostate Cancer Patients Live Longer
Prostate cancer patients who <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/28/health/research/regular-aspirin-use-may-aid-prostate-cancer-recovery-study-finds.html">take aspirin</a> could cut their risk of dying from the disease, Harvard researchers reported this year. <em>The New York Times</em> reported on the study, published in the <em>Journal of Clinical Oncology</em>, which showed that taking aspirin cut in half the risk of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/28/health/research/regular-aspirin-use-may-aid-prostate-cancer-recovery-study-finds.html">dying of prostate cancer</a> over a decade -- 8 percent of aspirin-nontakers died, compared with 3 percent of aspirin-takers.
Circumcision Could Affect Risk
Circumcision -- or the removal of a man's foreskin before he has sex for the first time -- is linked with a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12/circumcision-prostrate-cancer_n_1339047.html">lower risk of developing prostate cancer</a>, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center scientists found this year. The findings, published in the journal <em>Cancer</em>, shows that prostate cancer risk for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12/circumcision-prostrate-cancer_n_1339047.html">men who are circumcised</a> before the first time they have sex is 15 percent lower, compared with uncircumcised men. While Dr. Andrew Freedman, who is on the American Academy of Pediatrics' circumcision task force but was not involved in the study, found the findings thought-provoking, he told HuffPost in an earlier article that "this kind of epidemiological research -- how A affects B, and B affects C -- is very difficult to do and makes it very difficult to account for confounding variables."
Pan-Fried Meat Could Raise Risk
Including <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/pan-fried-meat-cancer-prostate-_n_1798970.html">pan-fried meat</a> in your weekly meal rotations is linked with a higher risk of prostate cancer, University of Southern California researchers found. Specifically, men who eat one-and-a-half servings of red meat that's been pan-fried each week have a 30 percent <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/pan-fried-meat-cancer-prostate-_n_1798970.html">increased risk of advanced prostate cancer</a>. And men who eat two-and-a-half servings of the food have a 40 percent increased risk. Hamburger meat in particular -- compared with a red meat like steak -- seemed linked with the increased risk, according to the <em>Carcinogenesis</em> study. And while not a red meat, pan-fried poultry also seemed linked with the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/pan-fried-meat-cancer-prostate-_n_1798970.html">increased prostate cancer risk</a> (while <em>baked</em> poultry was associated with a lower prostate cancer risk).
Genetic 'Signatures' Could Predict Aggressive Disease
Genes could hold a clue to who will go on to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/09/prostate-cancer-genetic-signatures-aggressive-tumors_n_1949724.html">develop aggressive prostate cancer</a>, researchers found this year. Reuters reported on the <em>Lancet Oncology</em> study, showing aggressive tumors might be able to be predicted by two <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/09/prostate-cancer-genetic-signatures-aggressive-tumors_n_1949724.html">genetic "signatures</a>": <blockquote>Researchers in Britain and the United States found that by reading the patterns of genes switched on and off in blood cells, they could accurately detect which advanced prostate cancer patients had the worst survival rates.</blockquote>
Blood Pressure Could Affect Risk Of Dying From Prostate Cancer
The risk of dying from prostate cancer is higher if you also<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/23/blood-pressure-prostate-cancer-deaths_n_2004582.html?just_reloaded=1"> have high blood pressure</a>, European researchers found. Specifically, hypertension was linked with a 62 percent increased risk of dying for people with prostate cancer. "When we looked to see if the metabolic factors are related to an increased risk of getting or dying from prostate cancer we found a relationship with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/23/blood-pressure-prostate-cancer-deaths_n_2004582.html?just_reloaded=1">death from the disease and high blood pressure</a>," study researcher Christel Haggstrom, of Umea University, told HuffPost UK. "There was also a link to high BMI but blood pressure had the strongest association to increased risk. The results for BMI are in line with previous findings in large studies."
Green Tea Is Good
Research presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research this year showed that drinking green tea could <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-10/aafc-gtr101112.php">help ward off inflammation</a> in men with prostate cancer who are about to undergo prostate-removal surgery. "Our study showed that <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-10/aafc-gtr101112.php">drinking six cups of green tea</a> affected biomarkers in prostate tissue at the time of surgery," study researcher Susanne M. Henning, Ph.D., R.D., of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles, said in a statement. "This research offers new insights into the mechanisms by which green tea consumption may reduce the risk for prostate cancer by opposing processes such as inflammation, which are associated with prostate cancer growth."
Living Longer With Prostate Cancer
In this medical video learn more about the treatments that are enabling men to live longer with prostate cancer.
The new findings, from a Phase II trial involving more than 250 men with locally advanced or spreading prostate cancer, show that the patches lower testosterone as effectively as LHRH agonists.
Importantly, they do not cause the same blood clotting problems seen with oestrogen tablets. Nor do they have the side effects associated with LHRH agonist injections.
The chief adverse effects of using oestrogen patches were swollen breasts and irritated skin.
Lead researcher Dr Ruth Langley, from the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit in London, said: "These promising new findings suggest that we might be able to use oestrogen patches or an oestrogen gel to treat prostate cancer without significantly increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
"We think the reason oral oestrogen caused these side effects is because the oestrogen reached the liver in high concentrations straight from the stomach, whereas if the oestrogen can be absorbed through the skin the effect on the liver is avoided."
The study, funded by Cancer Research UK, appears in the latest edition of the medical journal The Lancet Oncology.
Co-author Professor Paul Abel, from Imperial College London, said: "The next step is to test if the oestrogen patches are as effective at stopping the growth of prostate cancer as the current hormone treatments.
"We're now testing this in over 600 patients and some early results could be available later this year."
Kate Law, director of clinical and population research at Cancer Research UK, said: "More men than ever are surviving prostate cancer thanks to advances in research, but we still urgently need to find more effective treatments and reduce side effects.
"This trial is an important step towards better and kinder treatments that could bring big benefits to men with prostate cancer in the future."