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Could Estrogen-Releasing Skin Patches Treat Prostate Cancer?

Update Date: Mar 04, 2013 01:53 PM EST

Men suffering from prostate cancer may have a new and effective treatment, a new study reports. According to a study funded by the Cancer Research UK, researchers discovered a link between oestrogen patches in treating prostate cancer.  Oestrogen is mainly a female sex hormone responsible for promoting female characteristics, but is present in both sexes. The amount of oestrogren present naturally in males is very low in comparison to females. However, based from these new findings that oestrogen can help control testosterone, the male sex hormone, men may be able to use extra dosages of oestrogen in combatting prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer occurs when tissues in the gland of the male reproductive organ gets afflicted with cancer cells. High levels of testosterone can cause the cancer to grow, which is why reducing testosterone levels is vital in shrinking the tumor early on. High levels oestrogen has been known to reduce the levels of testosterone since the hormones tend to work inversely with one another. However, previous studies on the effectiveness of oestrogen pills in treating prostate cancer were ineffective. In the 1960s, doctors thought that oestrogen tablets could help with treating prostrate cancer. Although the tablets were somewhat effective, the side effects of heart and blood clotting were too dangerous.

The new study done by researchers at Imperial College in London discovered that current oestrogen patches that are usually used to treat menopause symptoms might be safe for men to use as treatment for prostate cancer. This study compared the effects of the standard treatment, LHRHa injections, which is a hormone treatment, to oestrogen patches. The researchers recruited 254 men who were diagnosed with locally advanced prostate cancer or cancer that has already spread. After a year, researchers found that oestrogen patches also lowered testosterone levels almost as effectively as the injections. The patches did not create the same dangerous side effects as the tablets. Furthermore, the researchers discovered that the injection treatment led to higher levels of blood glucose and cholesterol, which are contributing factors to heart disease.

Based on these findings, the researchers are optimistic about the role of oestrogen patches in treating prostate cancer and have enlarged the trial to 660 men. The long-term effects and possible side effects will be observed in the extended trial. 

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