Calcium and vitamin D regimens widely recommended to prostate cancer patients who undergo hormone therapy are inadequate to prevent treatment-related bone loss--and may even increase the risk of heart disease and advanced prostate cancer. This according to a review article published online ahead of its publication in the September issue of The Oncologist, a peer-reviewed journal for cancer specialists.
Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, analyzed data from 12 clinical trials involving a total of nearly 2,400 men given calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent bone loss from androgen deprivation therapy, a mainstay treatment for metastatic prostate cancer. They found evidence that at commonly recommended daily doses--500 to 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 200 to 500 international units of vitamin D--men still lost bone mineral density, which can increase the risk of fracture.
"In light of evidence that high levels of dietary calcium and calcium supplement use are associated with higher risks for cardiovascular disease and advanced prostate cancer," the researchers wrote, "intervention studies should evaluate the safety as well as the efficacy of calcium and vitamin D supplementation in these men."
Bottom line. One in 10 men who get androgen deprivation therapy for metastatic prostate cancer develops a new fracture within two years, according to the report. That can impact quality of life and survival, and significantly increase the cost of medical care. Calcium and vitamin D supplementation cannot prevent this complication and may, in fact, do harm. Patients should therefore consult with their health care providers about the use of other preventive therapies such as alendronate (Fosamax and generic) and teriparatide (Forteo), our medical consultants say. For more on supplement dangers, read our new report.