Healthy men over 55 who are concerned enough about the risk of prostate cancer to undergo annual PSA screening should consider taking the drug finasteride daily to reduce their risk of developing the disease, according to a new prevention guideline released Tuesday. "If a man is interested enough in being screened, then at least he ought to have the benefits of a discussion" with his doctor about taking the drug, Dr. Barnett S. Kramer of the National Institutes of Health said at a news conference revealing the guideline.
The recommendation targets men with a normal reading on the prostate-specific antigen or PSA test, which is considered the best indicator of the presence of a tumor, because clinical trials of the drug covered only such men. The panel stopped short of recommending that all men take the drug because clinical trials have not yet shown that it reduces deaths. Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among men, behind lung cancer, with 186,000 new cases diagnosed and 28,660 deaths each year. Finasteride is used in low doses under the brand name Propecia as an anti-balding drug and in higher doses under the name Proscar for shrinking enlarged prostate glands. The dose recommended for cancer prevention is the same dosage used in Proscar.