Prostate Cancer and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease of the skeletal system. It involves a loss of bone mass or bone density and the bones become weaker and more likely to break. Anyone who has osteoporosis is put at increased risk of fracture, especially of the hip and spine. Many people, some doctors included think of osteoporosis as a womans disease but millions of men have osteoporosis and more are developing it.

Osteoporosis lead fractures are associated with significant morbidity, mortality, and healthcare cost. It can progress for many years without symptoms until a fracture occurs. Men who suffer from broken bones or fractures are less likely than women to be treated for bone disease, even though treatment could help to prevent future broken bones and men have a higher mortality rate as a result of fractures.

The Links

Osteoporosis and prostate cancer are not terms that are often heard in the same context. There are however links between the two conditions. While osteoporosis may not be that prevalent, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among American men next to skin cancer.

One of the reasons that osteoporosis and prostate cancer have been linked together is that they share some of the same risk factors. The risk of prostate cancer increases with age, as does osteoporosis. Prostate cancer is extremely rare in men under age 40, but the risk increases greatly with age.

More than 65 percent of cases are diagnosed in men over age 65. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 70. Some men may already have osteoporosis at the time they are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Another risk factor that is shared by both diseases is a lack of Vitamin D. Other dietary factors for both diseases include a diet high in animal fat and lacking fruits and vegetables.

Androgens

It is well known that testosterone and other male hormones called androgens stimulate the growth of prostate cancer. As a result, treatments that suppress levels of such hormones have become a mainstay of treatment for advanced prostate cancer. In the past these types of drugs were used mainly to treat prostate cancer that spread to other parts of the body.

Today, because men are more likely to be diagnosed in the early stages of prostate cancer, more of them are opting to be treated with hormone deprivation therapy earlier in the course of the disease. Studies show that men who receive hormone deprivation therapy for prostate cancer have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis and broken bones. Hormones such as testosterone protect against bone loss. So, once they are blocked, bone becomes less dense and breaks more easily.

New treatments have been discovered for prostate cancer that may also help to reverse the damage caused by osteoporosis but they have not yet been studied thoroughly enough and are not yet approved for use in the United States. As more men are surviving prostate cancer and seeking earlier treatment, the risk of osteoporosis is expected to increase so early treatment, diagnostic and prevention options should be given more attention.