U.S. launches big prostate cancer study
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Federal health officials launched on Tuesday the world's biggest prostate cancer prevention study, which will examine whether the nutrients vitamin E and selenium ward off the disease.
Selenium and vitamin E, both taken by many people as dietary supplements, are antioxidants that are believed to help control cell damage that can lead to cancer.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and researchers around the country said the study involving 32,400 healthy men being recruited at more than 400 sites in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada will take up to 12 years to complete.
Prostate cancer is the second-deadliest form of cancer for U.S. men, behind only lung cancer, and is expected to cause 31,500 deaths this year, according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 198,100 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, with more than 70 percent of them over age 65. Only skin cancer has more cases among U.S. men.
Prostate cancer incidence and death rates are significantly higher in black men than in white men. In fact, black Americans have the highest incidence of the disease in the world. Men in the study must be at least 55 years old, except black men, who can be as young as 50, the researchers said, in an effort to encourage more blacks to take part.
Vitamin E is found in a wide range of foods, especially vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts and egg yolks. Selenium is a nonmetallic trace element that people get from water and food, including seafood, meats and Brazil nuts.
The research is dubbed SELECT, which stands for the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial.
"One might ask why selenium and vitamin E," Dr. Charles Coltman, director of the San Antonio Cancer Institute in Texas, who will head the research, said during a conference call with reporters.
"Both of these dietary supplements have demonstrated in separate prevention trials that they may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Because these trials were not designed with prostate cancer incidence as their primary end point, this SELECT trial has been designed to answer that very question definitively," Coltman added.
"If these supplements are shown to be effective in the prevention of prostate cancer, it will be a windfall to most of the participants and all men in the future."
The disease is a malignant tumor growth within the prostate gland. Its cause is not known, but some research has pointed to a relationship between high dietary fat intake and increased testosterone levels.
"This is the largest prostate cancer prevention trial that's ever been performed," said Dr. Leslie Ford, associate director for clinical research in NCI's Division of Cancer Prevention. NCI is part of the U.S. government's National Institutes of Health.
The volunteers will be assigned randomly to one of four groups -- one getting selenium and a placebo, one getting vitamin E and a placebo, one getting both selenium and vitamin E, and a final group getting only two placebos.
Copyright 2001 Reuters. All rights reserved.
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