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Anti-cancer supplement gave man breasts

Anti-cancer supplement gave man breasts
A supplement that men take against prostate cancer [and sometimes to prevent hair loss] contains a powerful synthetic oestrogen. Dutch doctors discovered this when they had to perform breast removal on a man who had been taking the supplement ProstaSol for 2 years.

ProstaSol is available through the Internet. Its composition changes regularly, but it contains substances that in theory reduce the androgen effects of testosterone. It is often found to contain beta-sitosterol, a natural substance that may inhibit prostate enlargement. Another substance found is a flavonoid that has been shown to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells in lab studies. Other batches contain an extract of Prunus africana, which in test tube studies reduced the conversion of testosterone into the more aggressive DHT.

ProstaSol is a popular supplement among men with prostate cancer. They do report side effects, such as blood clots or a 'suppression of their testosterone to castrate levels', according to a recent study. [Urology. 2008 Sep; 72(3): 664-6.] But ProstaSol is effective: at least it reduces the concentration of the prostate cancer protein PSA in the blood.

This was also the case for the man described in the article here. His father and grandfather had both had prostate cancer. When the man noticed that the concentration of PSA in his blood was on the rise, he started taking ProstaSol, at the suggestion of his therapist.

The man developed breasts, which were removed surgically, and after the operation the surgeons asked him to stop taking ProstaSol. They had noticed that the testosterone levels in his blood were very low. Once the man stopped taking the supplement his hormone balance returned to normal. At least it did so partially: his estradiol level inexplicably started to rise after stopping with the ProstaSol.

Anti-cancer supplement gave man breasts

Plant substances don't have this effect. The only conclusion was that there was something else in the supplement. To find out what it was, the doctors turned to the Dutch institute of food safety, RIKILT, and asked the hormone hunters there to analyse the 450 mg capsules that the man still had. The capsules came from batches 050926 and 070328.

According to the label, the capsules contained a mix of "beta-sitosterol, cellulose, Serenoa repens, quercetin, pygeum, Scutellaria baicalensis, magnesium stearate, potassium hydrogen phosphate, camposterol, stimgasterol, brassicasterol, Ganoderma lucidum, panax pseudo-ginseng, colloidal silicium dioxide, Urtica dioica, and Zingiber officinale". The hormone hunters discovered that the manufacturers of ProstaSol had forgotten to list another ingredient on the label: the synthetic oestrogen diethylstilbestrol, DES.

The supplement contain such high amounts of this component that the researchers had to dilute the extracts 10,000 times to be able to measure the oestrogenic effect using a bioassay of fluorescent yeast cells. The figure below compares the oestrogenic effect of ProstaSol with that of good olí estradiol. The values on the x-axis are enough to make your hairs stand on end.

Anti-cancer supplement gave man breasts

The capsules in batch 050926 contained 0.9 mg/g DES. In batch 070328 the figure was 4.1 mg/g. These are hefty doses. The manufacturer advises users to take 4 caps/day, which amounts to an average of 4.5 mg DES/day. That's an oestrogenic effect equivalent to taking 150 contraceptive pills a day. No wonder the guy grew breasts.

To make matters worse, men who take ProstaSol are probably more likely to have a fatal heart attack. In trials where men with prostate cancer were given DES, the chance of them developing blood clots that closed off the arteries rose at doses of 5 mg DES per day.

DES was also found in the now discontinued prostate supplement PC SPES. In the court case against the manufacturers of PC SPES, it came to light that when users had started to have heart attacks, the makers had added the blood thinner warfarin to the supplement to hide the presence of DES. [Washington Post September 5, 2004]

The analysts also ordered a pot of ProstaSol themselves from an online shop. They found no synthetic hormones in it.

Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2010 Apr 28:1-9. [Epub ahead of print].

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