- PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A popular hormone supplement sold in health food stores
in the United States as a means of slowing the aging process could increase
the risk of prostate cancer in men, a medical researcher said Friday. Dr.
Marshall Goldberg, an endocrinologist at Jefferson Medical College, said
the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, can stimulate production of
an insulin-like growth factor known as IGF-1, which has been linked to
an abnormal growth of prostate cells. Earlier this year researchers at
McGill Unversity reported men with elevated levels of IGF-1 were 4.5 times
more likely to develop prostate cancer than men with lower levels of the
growth factor, which helps to regulate cell turnover. Goldberg, who has
been studying DHEA's effects on his patients for nearly a decade, said
in a recent issue of the journal Emergency Medicine that daily doses of
the hormone as small as 25 milligrams can significantly raise IGF-1 levels.
``This is a real risk factor for prostate cancer,'' he said. ''Everyone's
taking it -- even my in-laws -- and they all think it's safe.'' DHEA, the
body's most abundant hormone, is believed by many laymen to ward off illnesses
which occur more frequently among elderly people, specifically diabetes,
heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease. More than one million Americans
are estimated to take the hormone as a dietary supplement. Levels of DHEA
rise after puberty, peak between the ages of 225-30 and then decline as
much as 80 percent as the individual ages. Goldberg said the change could
indicate that the hormone does have health benefits for older people. But
there would be a case for regulating DHEA if a link between the hormone,
elevated IGF-1 levels and prostate cancer were confirmed, he said.