Male Bone Density Decreases at a Steady Rate During Hormone-Suppressing Prostate Cancer Treatment

University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center
Last Modified: May 16, 1999

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The same bone loss seen in women who aren't producing estrogen is now being seen soon after men suppress testosterone and androgen production during prostate cancer therapy.

These male hormones are known to stimulate the early growth of prostate cancer, so at the first signs of a rising PSA level -- a test that measures a protein produced by cancerous prostate tissue -- many men choose to undergo drug therapy to shut down hormone production. But research conducted by investigators at the University of Washington is the first to document the rate of loss of bone mineral density in such patients. Lead researcher Dr. Celestia Higano reports that in this study, seventeen men experienced significant bone loss after only nine months on drugs that blocked production of androgen and testosterone -- a rate comparable to that of post-menopausal women who are not on estrogen replacement therapy. The mean percentage change in bone density in the men was about 4 percent in the lumbar spine and 2 percent in the hip, compared to beginning baseline measurements. Some, but not all, of that bone density was regained during a period of six months off the drugs.

The study suggests that men who receive suppression therapy should be followed for loss of bone mineral density, and if there is significant loss, they should be treated in a manner similar to women with postmenopausal osteoporosis, according to Higano.