According to the findings of a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, “there was an absolute increase in the incidence of high-grade prostate cancers” with the use of 5α-reductase inhibitors like Propecia and Proscar.
In a study dubbed the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT), researchers conducted a large, randomized placebo-controlled test regarding the side effects of finasteride. Finasteride is the active ingredient in a number of popular medications including Propecia and Proscar. Finasteride resides in a class of medications regarded as 5α-reductase inhibitors. As their name suggests, 5α-reductase inhibitors significantly lower levels of available 5α-reductase before testosterone has a chance to bond with the particular enzyme. Accordingly, levels of dihydrotestosterone(DHT) are reduced. DHT is a male hormone with the potential to cause catastrophic harm to the prostate.
However, many healthcare officials believe that 5α-reductase inhibitors may be responsible for causing prostate cancer in patients. The PCPT acknowledged that there was an absolute increase in the incidence of high-grade prostate cancers in patients taking 5α-reductase inhibitors like Propecia or Proscar.
The PCPT was conducted in men who were at risk of developing prostate cancer, however, showed no indication of having been already diagnosed with it. Upon further review of the PCPT, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed that 5α-reductase inhibitors actually provided patients with a 25% chance of reducing the risk of developing low-grade prostate cancer. However, the FDA acknowledged that the risk of high-grade prostate cancer was significantly increased. The absolute increased risk of developing high-grade prostate cancer after taking finasteride was raised .7%. These findings acknowledge that for every 150 men using finasteride, one additional man will develop high-grade prostate cancer. Thus the use of finasteride results in a trade-off; where the use of 5α-reductase inhibitors means the acceptance of high-grade cancer, but may prevent up to four potentially relevant low-grade cancers.
According to an FDA advisory committee, finasteride-containing medications like Propecia and Proscar do not have a favorable risk-benefit profile.
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