By Maureen Williams, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (August 31, 2006)—This year, an estimated 230,000 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer—the most common cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death in American men. Now it seems that pomegranate juice may be helpful in slowing the progression of the disease.
After a prostate cancer diagnosis, treatment options usually include surgery to remove the prostate gland and radiation therapy. These treatments eradicate the cancer in most men, but in others the cancer spreads to other parts of the body and might not be detected for years after treatment.
When prostate cancer cells are active in the body, blood levels of a molecule known as prostate specific antigen (PSA) rise. Other conditions of the prostate gland such as an inflamed prostate (prostatitis) and noncancerous enlargement of the prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia) can also cause PSA levels to rise, but in men who have been treated for prostate cancer a rise in PSA levels often indicates the presence of prostate cancer in other parts of the body (metastases).
Men who eat lots of fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer than men who eat lots of meat and little plant food. The high fiber and antioxidant content of plant foods are proposed to be the reasons for their anticancer effects. Pomegranate, a fruit that is eaten fresh and used to make juice and wine, is especially rich in antioxidants known as flavonoids, and some laboratory studies have found it to have anticancer effects.
The first study to look at the effect of pomegranate juice in men with prostate cancer was published recently in Clinical Cancer Research. In the study, 46 men who had been previously treated for prostate cancer but whose PSA levels were still rising (indicating metastatic disease) drank 8 ounces of pomegranate juice per day for 33 months. During the study, the rate of increase in PSA levels slowed significantly in 83% of the men, and in 15%, PSA levels decreased. The average length of time in which PSA levels were doubling at the beginning of the study was 15.6 months, but this doubling time lengthened to 54.7 months by the end of the study.
“The pattern of achieving a slowing of PSA progression without significant PSA declines is consistent with a cytostatic rather than cytotoxic treatment effect,” the authors conclude. In other words, the evidence from this preliminary study suggests that pomegranate juice might slow or prevent the progression of metastatic prostate cancer but is not likely to eradicate the cancer.
Pomegranate juice is a safe, inexpensive compared with most cancer treatments, and likely appealing addition to a healthy, plant-rich diet. More research into its anticancer effects is needed, but, based on these early findings, pomegranate juice can be recommended to men with metastatic prostate cancer as a possible means for slowing the disease.
“The urological treatment for metastatic prostate cancer has remained essentially unchanged for over 50 years,” said urologist Michael Curtis, MD, adding, “It is exciting to see new ideas that appear to be effective, and I will now suggest pomegranate juice for my patients as an adjunct to their other treatments.”
(Clin Cancer Res 2006;12:4018–26)
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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