Monday, February 11, 2008

Will I Get Prostate Cancer?

They say that if you're a male and you live long enough, you'll develop prostate cancer. But it probably won't be the cause of death. They'll just find it at autopsy. (Worldwide, 30% of men older than 50 have 'latent' prostate cancer.) You're much more likely to have died of heart disease. Not too comforting a thought, is it? You'd prefer to die of 'very old age' without either heart disease or cancer.

No one wants to develop heart disease, but it's a much less frightening concept than prostate 'cancer.' Too many men you know are having 'prostate problems' these days. It's frightening to think that the changes in bladder function might be a bothersome condition called BPH, an anatomical problem that develops when the prostate (a walnut sized gland at the base of the bladder) enlarges. In the process, BPH impedes urine flow, resulting in an inability to completely empty the bladder, frequent and/or painful urination, and even incontinence. Or it might be cancer of the prostate.

Environment (e.g., drugs, chemicals) and diet both play a role in the development of prostate cancer. Epidemiological studies provide clear evidence of this, thereby providing insight into how the incidence can be reduced. For instance, there are approximately 75,000 cases of prostate cancer in the United States each year - representing 18% of all new cancers. This rate of clinically evident prostate cancer is 120 times higher than found in China, even though men in both countries exhibit the same 30% rate of latent cancer found at autopsy.

What causes this transformation from abnormal cells to life-threatening disease? And what does this tell us about how we should live? It tells us a lot about the impact of our diet upon our health, in this case the effect it appears to have on the progression of prostate cancer. And on its prevention.

There are two ways to reduce your risk of prostate cancer: One, alter the type and amount of fat intake in your diet. Two, increase your consumption of foods and botanicals that have been shown to protect the prostate gland against cellular injury. These are important steps to take, and can be valuable even if you already have prostate involvement. At the same time, you should also be taking advantage of medical screening and diagnosis, such as yearly PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood tests to monitor the health of your prostate.

I. Alter The Type and Amount of Fat In Your Diet

The results of two major epidemiological studies, one in Hawaii and one on US health professionals, both implicated dietary fat as a major risk factor for prostate cancer. The recommendations from both studies are to reduce the total amount of fat in your diet. Currently in the US, 37% of our calories are obtained from fat. To reduce the risk of prostate cancer (and perhaps other cancers, as well), it is important to reduce that percentage to less than 20%. The data are not conclusive about whether the best percent is 20% vs. 15% vs 10%. But at least it can be said that men in the US consuming an average diet must cut their fat at least in half (from 37% to 20%) to reduce their risk.

These two studies, as have many other, implicated animal fats as being particularly important in the development of prostate cancer. The saturated fats in beef and milk caused substantial increases in relative risk of developing prostate cancer. It would be wise, therefore, for men to alter their intake of high-animal fat foods as well. Substituting fish and fowl for high fat meats appears to make a big difference in risk. (Read the article "How Much Meat Can I Eat?" for some good ideas.)

It has also been reported that a particular type of fat (alpha-linolenic acid) can increase risk of prostate cancer. This fat is found in vegetable sources as well, such as soy and rapeseed oils. Further research is required on this point, however, since soy has also been shown to have beneficial anti-cancer effects for other organs.

How can fat in the diet affect the risk of developing prostate cancer - or any cancer, for that matter? Because of their biochemical effects, which is true for all nutrients and botanicals. For instance, reducing total fat in the diet - and in particular the type of fat consumed, will reduce the amount of sex steroid hormone produced. This in turn reduces the amount of stimulation to the prostate gland, decreasing the risk of overstimulation. Reducing the amount and type of fat also leads to a reduced synthesis of biochemical compounds called 'eicosanoids.' These compounds can lead to inflammation of the prostate, in essence setting up a pattern of constant irritation - and increased likelihood of transformation to cancer.

II. Use Foods and Botanicals For Protection

Certain foods and botanical supplements have been shown to protect against the adverse biochemical effects that chemicals, fats and hormones can have on sensitive cells - such as the prostate. These include anti-oxidants (e.g., Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium) and the active compounds in natural substances such as Saw Palmetto and Nettle.

Just as there is a mechanism of injury by which fats and chemicals have their negative effects, there is also a preventive mechanism by which these nutrients and botanicals provide protection. For instance, Vitamin C and selenium protect against the effects of free radicals, parts of the fat molecule that break away and injure adjacent tissue. Saw Palmetto inhibits the enzyme (5-alpha reductase) that produces dihidrotestosterone in the gland, a hormonal stimulant of the prostate. Nettle is thought to work in a similar way, to inhibit the level of testosterone stimulation to the prostate, preventing its enlargement.

Prudence dictates a change in the way men eat, so they can reduce their risk of prostate cancer. It's also smart to use nature's resources - such as the botanicals - to further reduce the risk. Living a long and healthy life should be the goal. Watching your fat intake isn't too big a price to pay, is it?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Holistic and Alternative Therapies for Hair Loss in Men?

Many men are familiar with the thinning (or absence) of hair at the hairline or on top of the head, also known as alopecia. And most men can blame it on their genes: 95 percent of cases of hair loss are genetic in origin. While there are several conventional treatment options, including Rogaine, which is available over the counter, and Propecia, available by prescription, these medications require on-going use for maintained success, as well as regular visits to the doctor to watch for side effects. Surgery, such as a hair transplant, is another conventional option but an expensive route.

Since this condition is fundamentally a cosmetic one, any treatments must be weighed against potential side effects and costs. While numerous complementary and alternative treatments exist, their success has been limited. Still, as less expensive alternatives, you may find them worth a try. As always, be sure to let your doctor know of any complementary or alternative therapies you pursue.


  • Reduce the amounts of saturated fats, dairy products, and other animal products in your diet. Increase your intake of fresh vegetables, whole grains, and protein from non-animal sources like nuts and beans. These changes in your diet will help insure that the essential nutrients for normal hair growth are available.
  • Biotin (300 mcg per day) and trace minerals, such as those found in blue-green algae (2 to 6 tablets per day), may help hair growth.
  • Vitamin B6 (50 to 100 mg per day), zinc (30 mg per day), and gamma linolenic acid (1,000 mg twice a day) can help to stop the chemical process that leads to hair loss.

Herbal Medicine

  • Combine the following in equal parts and take as an herbal tea (2 to 3 cups per day) or tincture (20 to 30 drops two to three times per day): ginkgo, rosemary, prickly ash bark, black cohosh, yarrow, and horsetail.
  • Take green tea (2 cups per day) in addition to saw palmetto (100 mg twice per day).


Therapeutic massage increases circulation and decreases stress. Scalp massage using essential oils of rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, and cedarwood may help to increase circulation. Add 3 to 6 drops of essential oil to 1 tablespoon of jojoba or grapeseed oil. Massage into scalp daily.

Male Pattern Baldness

Many men experience some signs of balding as they age. In fact by the age of 30 about 1 out of every 3 men will be missing a little up top. Many men are comfortable with their new streamlined look, but some will try anything to reverse the process. The good news for those that care is that there are two FDA approved treatments currently available that really do help. They may not be perfect and they certainly won?t give you that Fabio look you?ve always wanted, but for some they are worth it.

The treatments are Minoxidil (Rogaine and others) which are available over the counter and Propecia (finasteride) which is prescription only.

Minoxidil (Rogaine and others)
Originally Minoxidil was used as a medication in the form of a pill to treat high blood pressure. One of the side effects was that people began to grow back hair they had lost. So the topical cream was developed to specifically treat hair loss. Users must apply the cream twice a day and there are two strengths currently available: 2% and 5%.

Minoxidil acts to stimulate new hair growth and works in about 60% of all men. The hair that grows back may be so called "baby hair," or may be more natural looking. In order to determine if it?s going to work you need to take it for at least a year which brings us to the major downside — the cost — about $30 per month for the extra strength (5%) treatment. Other side effects can include some itching and irritation of the skin.

The Minoxidil treatments work best for men who have started losing their hair in the last 5 years and so are commonly in the 20-40 age range.

Finasteride (Propecia)
Finasteride is available by prescription only under the name Propecia. This treatment works differently to Minoxidil and in most men acts to slow or prevent you from losing hair in the first place, but will also grow back some hair in almost two thirds of men. Propecia is taken in pill form once a day and is also expensive, about $45-50 per month. Once again you are going to have to give it at least 6 months to a year to see if it?s working for you. The side effects can include impotence in about 1% of men and reduced sexual drive in about 2%.

These treatments are for male pattern baldness only (known as androgenic alopecia). If you start to lose your hair in patches or in large amounts, you should consult with your doctor as there may be a different cause.

Both these treatments can help fight against baldness, but once you stop taking them you are likely to lose all that hair back again within only a few months. They seem to work better for men who are losing their hair from the tops of their heads and not so well for those with receding hairlines. So if you think it?s worth the money and it?s important to you, you might consider them. Talk to your doctor to see which treatment is right for you.

Men's Interest in Cosmetic Surgery Grows

Christopher Reitano was 44 and people were always asking "Do you have a cold? How are your allergies?"

Reitano was getting self-conscious.

"Basically, my eyes were baggy, especially on the upper eyelids. It was starting to get aggravating," says Reitano, a Voorhees, N.J., resident who is an international service manager for a global electronics firm. "I decided to do something about it."

Reitano did what many men are doing these days: He headed for the plastic surgeon where he had an operation on his upper and lower eyelids to reduce the puffiness.

"I look better, but more than that, I feel more self-confident," says Reitano. "I used to look down a lot, just so people wouldn't see. Now I give a better appearance in business and that is very important to me."

Making the cut
Women still account for the bulk of cosmetic surgery—91%, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). But plastic surgery has become more popular among men in the United States. ASPS-member surgeons performed 15,564 eyelid operations on men in 1998, nearly double the number in 1992. Eyelids are the second most popular procedure for men.

Number one is liposuction—the removal of excess fat from the thighs, abdomen, neck or other area of the body. In 1998, 19,789 liposuctions were performed on men by ASPS surgeons, more than triple the number in 1992.

"Women have always wanted to look younger and now men do too." says James W. Slavin, M.D., who is on the board of directors of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. "If a man is 55 and his 53-year-old wife gets a face-lift, he doesn't want to look like her father."

Increasingly, though, it is not just for social reasons that men are undergoing plastic surgery.

"With career pressures what they are, people, especially in their mid-40s, want to compete with younger people for good jobs," says Richard Dolsky, M.D., the plastic surgeon who operated on Reitano's eyelids.

One kind of plastic surgery men seem not to be getting is rhinoplasty, the traditional nose job. Dr. Dolsky says that men don't perceive a nose job as making them look younger, or even handsomer.

Cosmetic surgery is rarely covered by medical insurance. ASPS estimates that surgeon fees for a male face-lift run an average $5,540; liposuction, $2,281; eyelid surgery, $3,234, and a tummy tuck, $4,418. There are wide regional variations in cost.

No miracles
Plastic surgeons offer this caveat to anyone considering a cosmetic procedure: Don't expect too much.

"There are unrealistic expectations some of the time. We can help, but we aren't in the miracle business," says Dr. Slavin. "If a man comes to me and says his nose is bothering him or he looks a little too heavy and that is why he isn't getting promoted, I wonder if he realizes that he might not get promoted no matter what I do. Sometimes if you have a patient like that, you might recommend psychological help."

But Christopher Reitano says his plastic surgery has given him such a psychological lift that he's started a trend among his friends. "Some of my friends have now had more drastic stuff than I did—liposuction and the like." he says.

Men shopping for a surgeon should pick wisely, Reitano says. "I would never want to go to someone who says, 'Oh, great, we're going to make you look wonderful.' You've got to have realistic expectations. It can help your life, not change it drastically."

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends choosing a plastic surgeon who is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Here are other questions ASPS recommends you ask before deciding on a plastic surgeon:

  • Do you have hospital privileges? At which hospital? (Even if your surgery will be performed in your doctor's own surgical facility, he or she should have hospital privileges. It means the surgeon is subject to approval by his or her peers. Call the hospital to make sure.)
  • Where will you perform my surgery?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • How many procedures of this type have you performed?
  • Would it be possible to contact any of your former patients who have had this procedure?
  • How long of a recovery period can I expect?