Prostate Therapy Holds Hidden Bone Risk

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Section: Health News
Avoid the side effect your doctor may not know about

A common prostate cancer treatment could cause bone loss 10 times faster than normal--potentially raising the bone fracture risk.

When researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston tested the bone mineral density of 60 men with prostate cancer, they found that those treated with gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRH-a) experienced more than 10% bone loss in the hip and more than 17% loss in the spine during the first years of therapy (Jour. of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, June 2001).

GnRH-a seems to accelerate bone loss by sup- pressing the production of both testosterone and estrogen--hormones that help maintain bone, says Susan Greenspan, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Future studies will look at how men can prevent this bone loss. In the meantime, these steps can help if you're undergoing GnRH-a treatment:

• Ask your doctor about a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan. It's the most accurate bone-density check available.

• Get calcium. Men over age 50 need 1,200 mg calcium a day--the amount in 3 to 4 servings of low-fat milk or yogurt. Or take calcium supplements--up to 500 mg per dose, spread throughout the day.

• Lift some weight. Weight bearing exercise 2 or 3 days per week will help strengthen and preserve bone mass, build muscle mass, and improve balance, says Dr. Greenspan.

Quick Tip
Low bone density? Ask about alendronate sodium (Fosamax), shown to increase the density of men's bones.

PHOTO (COLOR): Are his bones really protected?

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By Diane Kozak

Edited by Sari Harrar

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