Pounding the Pavement: Getting a Move on the Side Effects of Prostate Cancer Treatment

By Carol L. Kornmehl, M.D., FACRO

Prostate cancer is one of the most common malignancies to affect men. Prostate cancer cells tend to thrive on testosterone, the male hormone. By altering the hormonal milieu and reducing the amount of testosterone the body produces, cancer cells “starve” and die. This measure can increase the man’s survival. Hormonal therapy, also known as ADT (androgen deprivation therapy) is a mainstream treatment for prostate cancer. It should be noted that even men who do not have prostate cancer tend to lose bone density at the age when prostate cancer is most prevalent.

A potential side effect of ADT, which causes the equivalent of a “male menopause”, is osteoporosis. Also, the loss of bone density or bone mass can cause bone pain, fractures, and immobility. In fact, men who undergo ADT tend to lose 4-13% of their bone density per year.

Men who use ADT should also consume a calcium-enriched diet and take calcium with vitamin D supplements. They should also be monitored with periodic bone density scans. Happily, bone loss can be reversed or even prevented by a very simple measure: walking as briskly as one can while carrying on a conversation. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University conducted a clinical trial to evaluate the effect of such moderate exercise on 70 men with localized prostate cancer (that which did not spread beyond the tissue immediately surrounding the prostate gland) and who led sedentary lifestyles. These men were treated with ADT and/or radiation therapy.

Half of the men were directed to rapidly stroll for at least 20 minutes per day, five days per week, for eight weeks and the other half made no change in their level of activity. The results of the trial revealed that the men who ambulated experienced a .5% increase in their bone mass. On the contrary, a 2.2% decrease in bone mass during the two-month study period was observed among their sedentary counterparts.

Therefore, since men who use ADT and who are able to walk briskly might benefit substantially and will incur no adverse effects, this simple ounce of prevention of osteoporosis, fractures, bone pain, and incapacitation can translate into a pound of cure.

Dr. Kornmehl is a board certified radiation oncologist and author of the critically acclaimed consumer health book, “The Best News About Radiation Therapy” (M. Evans, 2004). She may be contacted via www.RTSupportDoc.com, her website.

Copyright 2007 by Carol L. Kornmehl. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, electronically or otherwise, without express written consent by the author.

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