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Finasteride may benefit prostate health, NIH says

Healthy men older than 55 who are concerned enough about the risk of prostate cancer to undergo annual PSA screening should consider taking the drug finasteride daily to reduce their risk of developing the disease, according to a new prevention guideline released Tuesday.

“If a man is interested enough in being screened, then at least he ought to have the benefits of a discussion (with his doctor about taking the drug),” Dr. Barnett S. Kramer of the National Institutes of Health said at a news conference announcing the guideline.

The recommendation will be published in the March issues of the Journal of Clinical Oncology and the Journal of Urology.

Finasteride is used in low doses under the brand name Propecia as an anti-balding drug and in higher doses under the name Proscar for shrinking enlarged prostate glands.

A major clinical trial reported in 2003 showed that finasteride reduced the risk of prostate cancer by about one-quarter in men who took it, preventing about 15 cases in every 1,000 men.

Another drug in the same family, called dutasteride or Avodart, is thought to be even more potent and is undergoing clinical trials for prevention. It also is recommended in the guideline.

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