Friday, April 08, 2011

Foxglove remedy could help lower the risk of prostate cancer by a quarter (?)

Ach! More nonsense! People taking a very nasty drug got less prostate cancer. So what! To survive taking digoxin you would have to be in pretty robust health anyhow and getting less cancer could well be part of that

A traditional remedy made from foxgloves can lower the risk of prostate cancer by a quarter, scientists claim. The drug digoxin is already used to treat congestive heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms. Now researchers say it could help to combat prostate cancer by stopping the growth of the disease, according to the Cancer Discovery journal.

Scientists from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found digoxin lowered the risk of prostate cancer by 24 per cent among the 47,000 men tested. But they warn the results do not prove digoxin, whose side-effects include nausea, headaches and male breast enlargement, prevents the disease.

Professor Elizabeth Platz said: 'We realised that combining our laboratory and epidemiologic approaches could reduce the possibility that results on the candidate drugs might be due to chance. 'Adding the epidemiology study to the drug screen step provided an assessment of the drug's potential activity in people.'

Prof Platz stressed there is no suggestion that digoxin, which can have serious side effects including heart irregularities, should be used as a preventative treatment for prostate cancer. She added: 'This is not a drug you’d give to healthy people.'

Scientists began by screening more than 3,000 compounds already approved for medical use to see if any inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells. Digoxin emerged as a front runner among 38 promising candidates. A team of epidemiologists then looked for evidence of the drug combating prostate cancer in a patient health study.

The researchers looked at the medical records of around 47,000 men aged 40 to 75 who were monitored from 1986 to 2006. Among the group, around 5,000 new cases of prostate cancer were reported.

Men who regularly took digoxin made up two per cent of the cohort. They were 24 per cent less likely to develop prostate cancer than those who did not use the drug. Using digoxin for more than 10 years cut the risk of prostate cancer by half.

Further work will determine the mechanism of digoxin's effect and see whether the drug or others like it should be tested as prostate cancer treatments.

Digoxin alters biological pathways for sodium and potassium in heart cells. Scientists believe it may act on similar pathways in prostate cancer cells.


Risks from using estrogen as HRT are small and temporary

Strokes and other health problems linked with estrogen pills appear to fade when women quit taking them after menopause, the first long-term follow-up of a landmark study found. It's reassuring news for women who take the hormone in their 50s when menopause usually begins.

The latest study bolsters previous evidence that concerns about breast cancer and heart attacks are largely unfounded for those who take the hormone for a short period of time to relieve hot flashes and other menopause symptoms.

Estrogen-only pills are recommended just for women who have had a hysterectomy, and the study focused only on that group. About 25 percent of women in menopause have had hysterectomies. Other women are prescribed a combination pill of estrogen and progestin because for them, estrogen alone can raise the risk for cancer of the uterus.

The study results don't really change the advice doctors have been giving for several years now: Take hormones to relieve menopause symptoms in the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time.

The women in the study took estrogen for about six years and were evaluated for about four years after stopping. Slightly increased risks for strokes and blood clots that were found while they took the pills disappeared during the follow-up. Unfortunately, the bone-strengthening benefit of estrogen disappeared, too.

The research also found that women who started taking estrogen-only pills in their 50s fared better after stopping than women who'd started in their 70s - an age when hormones are generally no longer recommended.

The study is published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

The new results are from 10,739 participants in the estrogen-only part of the federal government's Women's Health Initiative study - research which shook up conventional wisdom about health benefits of hormones for menopausal women. Study of the estrogen-progestin group was halted in 2002 when risks for heart attacks and breast cancer were linked with the combination hormone pills. The estrogen-only study was halted in 2004 after stroke risks were seen in that group.


No comments: