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Prostate research on at LDS Hospital

Biggest study ever to determine effects of diet supplements

SHARE Prostate research on at LDS Hospital

LDS Hospital researchers are testing whether two dietary supplements, selenium and vitamin E, can prevent prostate cancer, which kills more Utah men than any other cancer.

"It would be absolutely a wonderful thing" if it proves true, said Dr. L. Scott Chidester, a urologist and principal investigator for the study at LDS Hospital, which is the only Utah medical center participating in the multicenter clinical trial. "Prostate cancer's a very big deal. If we could decrease it even a few percentage points, we could save thousands of lives across the U.S."

Nationally, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. This year alone, an estimated 200,000 American men will be diagnosed with the disease and more than 31,500 will die. In Utah, 1,400 men will be diagnosed and 200 will die.

Risk factors include being over age 55, being black or having a father or brother who had prostate cancer.

The study, billed as the largest human prostate cancer prevention clinical trial ever, was prompted by unrelated earlier studies that indicated, as a side effect, a reduction in prostate cancer among men who take one or both of the two dietary supplements.

A 1996 study of selenium as a way to prevent a type of nonmelanoma skin cancer didn't find any protection there, but results hinted that it did prevent prostate cancer. Two years later, in a study to see whether beta carotene and vitamin E prevented lung cancer in smokers (the answer was no), prostate cancer seemed to be reduced.

Because prostate cancer is a slow-growing cancer, the study will take as many as 12 years. Researchers hope to enroll 32,400 men in the United States and Canada during the first five years so that each participant can be tracked for at least seven years, according to Chidester.

The very large number of men are needed because "if you are postulating a decrease in development of tumor, you need large numbers so that statistically it works out," he said.

Both selenium and vitamin E occur naturally and are considered antioxidants, able to neutralize toxins known as free radicals that otherwise could damage cells' genetic material and possibly cause cancer. A wide range of foods including egg yolks, vegetables and nuts contain vitamin E. Selenium, a trace element, is found in water and such foods as seafood, red meat and Brazilian nuts.

LDS hopes to enroll more than 1,000 healthy men over age 55 (50 for blacks) who have never had prostate or other cancers (aside from non-melanoma skin cancer). Some of the men will receive selenium and a vitamin E lookalike placebo, some vitamin E and a selenium lookalike placebo, some both dietary supplements and some twin placebos. Neither doctor nor patient will know who is receiving what until the study is completed.

To enroll or learn more about the clinical trial, call LDS Hospital's clinical trails office at 801-408-1236.

E-MAIL: lois@desnews.com