It is commonplace for doctors’ advice on bone loss to be to up your intake of calcium and vitamin D. And that has been the case for prostate cancer patients undergoing hormonal treatment. But a piece of health news has found that such supplements may not be the best thing at all for these men.
The problem is that these men are at risk of bone loss from the hormonal treatment used to fight the cancer. However, researchers have found that calcium and vitamin-D supplements didn’t prevent bone loss. In fact, the supplements may increase the risk of heart disease and aggressive prostate cancer.
“Androgen deprivation therapy” (ADT) is the mainstay treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer. It reduces levels of androgens; a substance on which most prostate cancers depend. Like women undergoing menopause, a side effect of ADT in men is bone loss, or osteoporosis. So, many doctors recommend calcium and vitamin-D supplements to help reduce fracture risk in these men. And for good reason: one in 10 will experience a fracture within two years of therapy.
It is a logical recommendation that has never been questioned. But what if it made the cancer worse?
Researchers reviewed guidelines for the two nutrients and the results of 12 clinical trials involving calcium and/or vitamin D and 2,400 men with prostate cancer, ADT, which checked bone density before and after treatment.
Using this data, they found that the supplements clearly did not prevent bone loss. At typical doses (500 to 1,000 milligrams of calcium, 200 to 500 international units of vitamin D per day), men undergoing ADT lost bone mineral density.
So, on one hand, there is a lack of benefit. On the other hand, there is an association between increased dietary calcium and an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer and heart disease.
It’s important for doctors and patients alike to have this information. Patients who are better educated about all the risks surrounding cancer treatment have a better chance of survival and leading a healthy life. If men on ADT are told to take calcium and vitamin D, this study is worth a discussion with the doctor.