Prostate Awareness Foundation

Prostate Self Help

Monthly Bulletin

August 2009

The Dollars and Cents of Prostate Cancer Treatment:

What does it cost on average for two years of prostate cancer treatment after diagnosis? The dollars involved are astounding when considering that over 300,000 men are diagnosed annually and most opt for some form of conventional treatment. With America focused on a new national health care initiative, the below figures may surprise you. Keep in mind that all of the latest research points to the fact that there is no one treatment path that is superior to another for treating prostate cancer. Of course, a treatment protocol should be tailored to the individual based on many variables, (Source: Alan Garber and Daniella Periroth – Stanford University and Dana Goldman – The Rand Corporation.)

Treatment Average Cost
Active Surveillance
(exams and testing)
Radical Prostatectomy $22,921
External Beam Radiation $12,224
Brachytherapy $28,87
IMRT – Radiation Therapy $51,069
Proton Beam Radiation $100,000+

Flax Seed – Should you use it if you have prostate cancer?

We have written about flax seed a number of times in the past, and there are lots of articles both pro and con about its use. The controversy continues. There seems to be no doubt that flax seed can reduce cholesterol levels in the blood and a number of recent clinical studies show a link between high cholesterol levels and prostate cancer disease progression. So it would seem that any food that can help lower cholesterol levels should be a consideration for men dealing with prostate cancer.

Flax seeds are rich in lignans, a family of fibers that bind to the male hormone testosterone and limit its ability to promote prostate tumor growth. Lignans also appear to have anti-angiogenic qualities. This means they have the ability to stop the blood supply to tumors, thus cutting off nourishment and disease progression. The seeds also contain omega -3 fatty acids which have shown a protective effect against heart disease.

But there are also published studies that indicate that flax seeds may stimulate tumor growth (these are laboratory studies and not conducted on humans).  As always, it seems that if you look long and hard enough you will find studies that contradict each other.

It seems that the problem may be in how to consume flax seed. We have warned in the past about using flax seed oil which is highly concentrated and thus high in linoleic acid, which means its high in Omega 6 fatty acid. This converts to a high % of aracidonic acid when metabolized. This acid has shown to be a prostate cancer cell growth stimulant.

The most recent studies funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and conducted at Duke University, the University of Michigan and the University of North Caroline used flax seed powder in their clinical research. This powder is not as concentrated as the oil and therefore does not have the same potentially harmful effect. The study showed a dramatic slowing of prostate cancer cell proliferation in men consuming 30 grams of flax seed daily.

Another safe source of flax seeds are the seeds themselves. But first you have to grind them to break the hard seed coat which is un-digestible. Try sprinkling the ground seeds on cereal or salads to get some variety in your diet while receiving the healthy benefits of flax seeds.

Another Flawed Trial on Supplements!

You may have read about the SELECT Study (Selenium and Vitamin E in Prostate Cancer). This study of 35,000 men was funded by the National Institute of Health and conducted by MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The results were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (12/08).

Many of us felt it was about time that a definitive study was done on these popular supplements, since research on non-proprietary supplements and foods are few and far between. Based on who was funding and conducting the trial one would hope it would be a definitive piece of research that was conducted properly and could be relied on for unbiased information. The results showed that neither selenium nor vitamin E is of any benefit to prostate cancer.  In fact the results were very negative for both and indicated that the supplements may in fact be harmful.

This study surprised almost everyone because prior studies had indicated numerous benefits. The SELECT study has frightened many prostate cancer patient and many are choosing to discontinue their use. But the truth is that the study has many flaws that need to be considered. Knowledgeable health professionals from many disciplines have raised serious questions about the study and many feel the trial was misleading and basically worthless.

Here are the facts:

Vitamin E:

The most active and beneficial forms of vitamin E are gamma and delta- tocopherols.  Neither of these was used in the SELECT study. All prior studies done on the value of vitamin E supplementation and its benefits for prostate cancer have used gamma-tocopherols. A study in 2000 published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that the men with the highest levels of gamma-tocopherol had 1/5 the risk of prostate cancer than those with the lowest levels. Gamma-tocopherol helps reduce the production or initiation of free radicals which play a major role in cancer cell development and progression.

But the form of vitamin E used in the SELECT study was alpha-tocopherol, not gamma-tocopherol! Although the alpha form of vitamin E does seem to neutralize free radicals that have already formed, it also depletes the body of gamma-tocopherol!


Unfortunately, here again the wrong form of selenium was used in the study! All prior positive research on this supplement used a selenium yeast that converted the selenium to a number of selenium containing chemicals. For whatever reason, the study used selenomethionine. This substance is just one of the many chemicals found in the selenium grown in the yeast formula.

Charles Myers, MD, the editor of the respected Prostate Forum newsletter feels that the wrong selenium was studied. He also says that we now know that selenomethionine may cause damage to the blood vessels and is potentially toxic. (Please note: some of the latest research, but not part of the SELECT study, indicates a possible relationship between selenium and high blood sugar).

The Bottom Line:

It almost seems that the study was designed to fail. One would think that when studying the role of nutrients in any disease one would want to look at past studies and the synergistic effects of the different components of the substance being studied, not isolated components. As usual, the media has picked up and reported on the negative aspects of this study and not considered the flaws or the positive prior reports.

If you use vitamin E make sure it contains gamma-tocopherol. Other sources of natural vitamin E include pecans, walnuts and sesame seeds.

As for selenium: eat an occasional brazil nut or two or three, a natural source of selenium.


The annual PCRI (Prostate Cancer Research Institute) symposium will be held in Los Angeles the weekend of September 12th. Lectures by many of the most prominent prostate cancer specialists in the United States will be speaking. Visit or call 310-743-2117 for additional details.

Video from The Cancer Climb for Prostate Awareness Expedition to Mt Cotopaxi, Ecuador:

There is a great short video of this year’s expedition and a few interviews with the climbing team at We think it will inspire you, please take a look. It’s easy: just go to the website, click on updates from the climbers – video, and then click on the video and individual interviews.

The climbs are our annual fundraiser, If you haven’t done so already, PAF could really use your help. Your generous contribution is tax deductible and will ensure we can continue our education and outreach programs for another year. Thanks for your support.

We Need Your Email Address:

If you received this monthly bulletin by “snail mail” and have an email address we would really like to have it so we can reduce our operating costs. Please help us save money while saving trees!

Prostate Awareness Foundation

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