The US National Cancer Institute reports that along with skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer. Usually develops very slowly.
People of all ages are at risk for prostate cancer, but most men diagnosed with prostate cancer are over 65 years of age. With age, the risk of developing another disease, such as osteoporosis, increases.
Osteoporosis is a particular concern for men with prostate cancer. Recent studies have shown a strong link between hormone therapy, which is one of the methods used to treat prostate cancer, and osteoporosis. Hormone therapy, also called androgen deprivation therapy, deprives cancer cells of male hormones (androgens). Cancer feeds on these hormones in order to develop and grow.
Facts about osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become weaker, less dense, and more brittle. This is a disease that can weaken bones over the years without any obvious symptoms. Many people, even some doctors, consider osteoporosis a female disease, but millions of men also suffer from it. In addition to hormone replacement therapy for prostate cancer, there are other risk factors for osteoporosis:
- Family history of the disease.
- Use of certain medications such as glucocorticoids.
- Insufficient amount of calcium in the body.
- Low physical activity.
- Drinking too much alcohol.
Link between prostate cancer and osteoporosis
Studies show that men who undergo hormone therapy for prostate cancer have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis and bone fractures. Hormones such as testosterone protect against bone loss. Therefore, once these hormones are blocked, bones break down more easily.
Hormonal deprivation is one of the treatment options for prostate cancer in men. This therapy was mainly used to treat cancer that had spread to other parts of the body. But because men are more prone to prostate cancer today, most of them choose to be treated with this therapy at an earlier stage of the disease.
There are several basic methods for reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis or relieving symptoms in those who already have it. They are associated with:
Some research points to a link between a high-fat diet and prostate cancer. However, it is not yet clear what foods or supplements may play a role in reducing the risk of prostate cancer. Regarding bone health, a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is recommended. Sources of calcium include dairy products, green leafy vegetables, calcium-fortified foods, and drinks. Dietary supplements or multivitamins can also be taken as long as they meet the body’s daily requirement for calcium.
However, other evidence suggests that high calcium intake may trigger the development of prostate cancer. But the studies that lead to these conclusions are not definitive. The current recommended intake for men aged 19-70 is 1,000 mg of calcium per day, and for those over 70, 1,200 mg per day.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption and bone health. The recommended daily intake of calcium is 600 to 800 IU (international units) each day.
- Physical activity
Like muscles, bones are living tissue that, when exercised, become stronger. The best exercises for bones are weight-bearing exercises that force us to work against gravity. Some examples include walking, climbing stairs, dancing, and more. Walking regularly can help prevent bone loss and provides many other health benefits, such as reduced pain, stress relief, and easier cancer treatment.
- Healthy lifestyle
Smoking is toxic to the bones as well as to the heart and lungs. In addition, smokers absorb less calcium, which is related to their diet. Research has also shown that alcohol abuse, in addition to harming overall health, weakens bones and increases the risk of fractures.
- Bone mineral density test
The Bone Mineral Density Test (BMD) is the best way to determine the health of our bones. BMD tests can detect osteoporosis, determine the risk of fractures (broken bones), and monitor osteoporosis treatment. The most widely recognized BMD test is the dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA test). The test is painless. Something like an x-ray is taken, but with much less radiation exposure, and the bone density of the femur and spine can be measured.
There are some medications approved by the FDA for men with prostate cancer. Although there are no specific medical documents specifically for the treatment of men with bone problems caused by hormone deprivation therapy for prostate cancer, there are several clinical trials for them.