Choose Supplements for Prostate Cancer Part: 1

Hi, I’m Dr. Scholz. Let’s talk about prostate cancer. We come to a point now where we need to talk.


Hi, I’m Dr. Scholz. Let’s talk about prostate
cancer. We come to a point now where we need to talk
about food, vitamin, and mineral supplements. This question comes up very frequently when
I’m talking to patients, and it is a very important question. This goes way back, as
many of you are aware, the whole field of prostate cancer has evolved rapidly, technology
has improved. But I started back in the early 1990s when there were relatively few available
treatments. Some people think that doctors are kind of anti-supplement, but there’s no
doubt that some vitamin and food supplements can be beneficial. How do you determine which
ones work and which ones don’t work? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people
come in with a long list of stuff that they’ve been on for years, kind of like an old closet
where they just throw stuff in there and then they really don’t reassess whether it’s working
or it’s effective or they really should be taking them. A process of analysis is necessary
to decide both in a generic sense, is a supplement useful, should it even be considered? And
then in a personal sense, is it working for you? This is the first of a two-part video, and
in this video, we’ll talk about the principles for selecting a supplement. In the second
video, we’re going to go through sequentially and talk about specific individual supplements
and their role and usefulness and how to evaluate their effectiveness. One reason why I think this has become a big
part of the prostate cancer world is because prostate cancer is a different type of a condition.
It has a long natural history and people are therefore looking at the impact of these supplements
which may have modest effects. If you think about it, taking a supplement for a rip-roaring
condition like lung cancer or pancreas cancer, its not going to have a very big impact. But
what about prostate cancer, where people can live with it for 10 or 20 years or more? Another
thing about prostate cancer is you can look at outcomes in how does the PSA behave over
time as you change around dietary and supplement patterns. So you can actually get some feedback,
some objective feedback as to what’s working and what’s not working. The other thing about
prostate cancer is men live with it for long periods of time, and so other general health
issues—supplements aren’t just for prostate cancer but they’re for men’s health, heart
disease, blood sugar, all kinds of different things—and those issues can be looked at
too because people will live with prostate cancer for so many years. I want to share a short example of a supplement
that made a big splash in the prostate cancer world 15-20 years ago called PC-SPES. PC-SPES
with a compilation of Chinese herbs developed by a scientist named Sophie Chen, and it went
into manufacturing, it was distributed, and there was no doubt that this product was causing
PSA declines in men with prostate cancer. It appeared to be effective; Eric Small at
UCSF did clinical trials with PC-SPES. However, like all anti-cancer agents, PC-SPES had a
side effect profile. It appeared to have some sort of hormonal or estrogenic effect. So
men would get breast enlargement; men would get blood clots. These are the types of things
that happen with estrogenic effects. A number of lawsuits ensued, and unfortunately, PC-SPES
and the company that manufactured it went bankrupt, and it’s no longer available. This does point to the possibility that alternative
medicines can have real benefits and those benefits are measurable. When talking about
this idea of an estrogenic effect, I’ve seen a number of patients through the years who
have sort of given up on Western medicine, gone down below the border to Mexico, and
undergone treatment with herbal products, alternative products, and in some cases seem
to get benefits. I’ve had patients come back praising the types of treatments they had.
Their PSA levels dropped, if they had pain from prostate cancer, it went away. And mysteriously,
they also would complain of breast enlargement, and no doubt they were getting some surreptitious
estrogen mixed in with herbal products. So one of the things that we have to watch out
for with this whole field of alternative medicine and supplements is adulteration with other
pharmacologic agents being mixed in which were actually the active ingredients. There are many challenges presented by the
supplement industry, and even though there’s potential good, there’s also potential bad.
What are the principles you should use in trying to discern which supplement is effective
for you? Well, the first and the very easy one is “does
it work for you?” For example, as we get older many of us develop arthritic pains and discomfort
and there are alternative supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin which have been
used to try and alleviate arthritic type pains. This has been studied and there are definitely
people that benefit. Does that mean that everyone with arthritis should be taking glucosamine
and chondroitin? Of course not, but it’s very reasonable for you as an individual to try
it for a couple of months and see if you personally benefit. So the first principle is, go ahead
and experiment with some of these things, assuming they’re safe, and determine if it’s
effective for you personally. After a few months, if there’s no benefit—there’s no
effect—then discontinue it. The next reason to try a supplement and determine
if you should be taking it or not has to do with the specific authority you’re relying
upon to make such decisions. Different companies, different individuals, and you use the same
process that you would use for any other decision-making process. You look at the individual, do they
have a conflict of interest? Are they getting paid? Have they got an overall reputation
of integrity? Have they been consistent in making good predictions in other arenas? The
character of the person or the company that’s making the recommendation needs to be looked
at. To assume that all sources of information are equal is incredibly foolish, and I run
into this type of thinking even in intelligent people. You have to look at the source of
the information critically and decide if they are looking out in a general dispassionate
scientific sense and providing information, or if there’s a conflict of interest behind
the curtains that is driving their recommendations. The third way to determine if a supplement
or a mineral is being used in an effective way in you personally is to check blood levels.
There are a number of vitamins which if they’re too high or too low, minerals, whether they’re
too high or too low, can be either causing problems or the absence can be causing problems.
Vitamin B12, vitamin D are a couple of examples. And rather than just shotgunning a certain
amount of a specific vitamin, you can check those levels in the blood and determine if
they fit into the normal range. I think that the important underlying principle is that
you can’t accept any source of authority without questioning and determining if it has specific
application for you personally. I think if you use that sort of critical decision-making
process you’ll be able to determine which things are going to be helpful and which ones
are unnecessary or even harmful.

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