According to a new study a drug commonly used to shrink enlarged prostate glands in men has been found to also cut the risk of developing prostate cancer.
The four-year international study of the drug, dutasteride, showed that it reduced by 23 percent the risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer in men with an increased chance of developing the disease.
Such tumors account for the majority of all prostate cancers and grow unpredictably, causing many men to opt for aggressive surgery or radiation treatments which can leave them incontinent or impotent.
"Dutasteride may potentially offer many thousands of men a way to reduce their risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer," said the lead author, Gerald Andriole, chief of urologic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
"This means more men could avoid unnecessary treatment for prostate cancer along with the costs and harmful side effects that can occur with treatment."
The trial of the drug was carried out in 250 sites in 42 countries involving some 8,231 men aged between 50 to 75, who were randomly given either a placebo or a daily dose of the drug.
Two years after the start of the trials, and then four years after, the men were given biopies, said the study published in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Some 659 men or 19.9 percent taking dutasteride were diagnosed with prostate cancer, compared to 858 men or 25.1 percent taking a placebo. None of the men in the study died of prostate cancer.
Among men with a family history of prostate cancer, the drug reduced the relative risk of a prostate cancer diagnosis by 31.4 percent.
"The most likely explanation for the study's results is that dutasteride is keeping tumors small or even shrinking them to the point that they are unlikely to be detected by a biopsy," said Andriole, who also treats patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Siteman Cancer Center.
Dutasteride was most effective at reducing the risk of medium-grade tumors.
The study was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of Avodart, which is the brand name of the drug.