Anti-baldness cure cuts prostate cancer

A best-selling anti-baldness drug that lowers male hormone levels also cuts the risk of prostate cancer, say US scientists.

Proscar, which helps stop hair from thinning, was found to reduce the chances of getting the disease by about a quarter.

However, men who still went on to develop prostate cancer developed a more aggressive form of the disease.

Dr Ian Thompson, of the University of Texas Health Sciences Centre, said the drug has "extraordinary public health potential".

Scientists stopped a seven-year study of 18,000 men aged 55 and older a year early because the results were so successful.

Men who took Proscar daily reduced their chances of getting prostate cancer by nearly 25 per cent compared with men given a dummy pill.

"This trial proves prostate cancer, at least in part, is preventable," said Dr Peter Greenwald, cancer prevention chief at the US National Cancer Institute.

Dr Greenwald participated in the study himself and so far is cancer-free.

But researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that men who took the drug and still got prostate cancer developed a more aggressive form of the disease.

Dr Leslie Ford of the US National Cancer Institute said it was unclear why men on Proscar had more high-grade tumours.

"The drug affects the appearance of prostate cancer cells, and this may lead to a false estimate of tumour grade, which is determined visually by a pathologist."

After reviewing the study, Dr Peter Scardino of New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre, said: "It looks like Proscar prevented little tiny, insignificant cancers, but did nothing for high-grade cancers or maybe even allowed them to become more common.

"That doesn't sound like a very good trade-off to me."

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