Use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by men with prostate cancer has more than doubled in the United States since the mid-1990s, a recent survey in the Journal of Urology found. CAM is a general term for medical treatments that are not considered part of conventional medicine and are rarely substantiated by rigorous scientific study. It’s a diverse category that includes herbal supplements and vitamins, acupuncture, and many others.
Between 1996 and 2016, nearly 8,000 men with prostate cancer who were participating in an ongoing study were periodically asked about their use of CAM. In the early days of the study, 24 percent reported CAM use, but that figure soared to 54 percent by 2016, an increase of 128 percent.
Dietary supplements were by far the most widely used form of CAM, taken by 50 percent of respondents. In that category, multivitamins were the most common choice, used by 40 percent. Disturbingly, 15 percent of respondents in the most recent assessment reported taking vitamin E, and 8 percent said they took selenium, both of which have been shown to be associated with an increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer.
CAM for prostate cancer lacks scientific support. If you use an herbal supplement or vitamin, tell your doctor, since some can interfere with your medication. For example, St. John’s wort can block enzymes your body needs to metabolize chemotherapy drugs such as docetaxel.