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Hair-Growth Drug Artificially Lowers Psa Levels in Prostate Cancer Screening

The popular hair-growth drug finasteride, taken by millions of balding men, artificially lowers the results of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test,// the standard screening test for prostate cancer, a multicenter study has found.

The study, involving 308 men ranging in age from 40 to 60 years old, is available online in the British medical journal The Lancet and is scheduled to be published after Jan. 1, 2007. The study calls for new clinical guidelines for primary-care physicians, dermatologists and urologists to account for the role of finasteride, known as Propecia when used for hair loss, while evaluating PSA results.

“It’s not universally known that finasteride lowers PSA levels in younger men who take it for hair growth,” said Dr. Claus Roehrborn, chairman of urology at UT Southwestern Medical Center and co-principal investigator of The Lancet study, along with Dr. Anthony D’Amico of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. “It is important for physicians to know that many young men take Propecia and that their PSA level is lowered artificially. Doctors need to adjust the PSA interpretation by multiplying it times two for these men.”

Finasteride was initially developed in the 1990s for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), better known as enlarged-prostate disease, and was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this use. Patients with BPH must strain to pass urine and feel the urge to urinate frequently. BPH can lead to the inability to urinate and urinary tract infection.

In 1997 the FDA approved finasteride for the treatment of male-pattern baldness. While Propecia is administered at 1 milligram per day, patients who take the finasteride drug Proscar for BPH get a five times higher dosage, 5 mg per day.

“The impact of finasteride on PSA levels is significant,” said Dr. Roehrborn. “This needs to be realized by all internists, fam
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