Researcher Sees 4.5
Times Increased Prostate
Cancer Risk From DHEA Use
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A popular hormone supplement sold in health food stores in the United States as a means of slowing the aging process could increase the risk of prostate cancer in men, a medical researcher said Friday. Dr. Marshall Goldberg, an endocrinologist at Jefferson Medical College, said the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, can stimulate production of an insulin-like growth factor known as IGF-1, which has been linked to an abnormal growth of prostate cells. Earlier this year researchers at McGill Unversity reported men with elevated levels of IGF-1 were 4.5 times more likely to develop prostate cancer than men with lower levels of the growth factor, which helps to regulate cell turnover. Goldberg, who has been studying DHEA's effects on his patients for nearly a decade, said in a recent issue of the journal Emergency Medicine that daily doses of the hormone as small as 25 milligrams can significantly raise IGF-1 levels. ``This is a real risk factor for prostate cancer,'' he said. ''Everyone's taking it -- even my in-laws -- and they all think it's safe.'' DHEA, the body's most abundant hormone, is believed by many laymen to ward off illnesses which occur more frequently among elderly people, specifically diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease. More than one million Americans are estimated to take the hormone as a dietary supplement. Levels of DHEA rise after puberty, peak between the ages of 225-30 and then decline as much as 80 percent as the individual ages. Goldberg said the change could indicate that the hormone does have health benefits for older people. But there would be a case for regulating DHEA if a link between the hormone, elevated IGF-1 levels and prostate cancer were confirmed, he said.