Harvard Men's Health Watch

Drugs for enlarged prostate: Is cancer a side effect?

Weigh the small long-term cancer risk against the relief of common male urinary problems.

For men with bothersome urinary symptoms from an enlarged prostate, treatment may involve the medications dutasteride (Avodart) or finasteride (Proscar). These drugs, called 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, or 5-ARIs, help to shrink the gland and keep it from pressing on a man's plumbing. Both of these medications are available as generics.

But 5-ARIs have a complex connection to prostate cancer. Although the drugs reduce the overall chance of developing prostate cancer, some cancers that do arise may be more aggressive—and therefore more likely to spread and cause illness.

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