Harvard Perspectives on Prostate Disease

Can prostate cancer be prevented?

Principal investigator Ian Thompson, M.D., sorts out the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial's findings and outlines finasteride's risks and benefits

For men diagnosed with prostate cancer, the question of what to do next is probably foremost in their minds. Surgery? Radiation? Wait to see how quickly the tumor grows? But somewhere in the midst of all the soul-searching, many inevitably wonder, "Is there anything I could have done to prevent prostate cancer in the first place?"

In 1993, a group of researchers embarked on the first large-scale, population-based study to try to find an answer. Nearly 19,000 men, ages 55 and older, enrolled in a seven-year landmark study, dubbed the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT), to determine whether the drug finasteride (Proscar) could prevent prostate cancer. The choice of finasteride, typically prescribed for the relief of urinary symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate, was based on two observations:

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