Following reports yesterday of a US study into androgen deprivation therapy – a commonly used treatment for men with prostate cancer in the UK – Prostate Cancer UK's Dr Ian Le Guillou investigates whether there's any solid proof behind claims it could double the risk of dementia.

14 Oct 2016

What's the story?

A new US study suggests that hormone therapy for prostate cancer could double the risk of dementia. The researchers searched the medical records of almost 10,000 American men who had prostate cancer to see if men who received hormone therapy were more likely to develop dementia later.

What were the study's findings?

They found that 7.9 per cent of men who had androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) developed dementia within five years, compared to 3.5 per cent who did not. At first glance, this may appear that the hormone therapy increases the risk of dementia. But we need to consider if these two groups of men were different to begin with.

What differences are they?

Those men who received ADT were on average three years older, less likely to be white and more likely to smoke, have heart disease and diabetes. These are known to affect the risk of dementia and while the researchers tried to account for these differences, it can be hard to remove their effects completely.

No man should stop taking hormone therapy based on this study, which isn't conclusive enough to say anything for sure

So how certain can we be that there is a link to dementia?

We cannot say for sure that hormone therapy increases the risk of dementia. This study has highlighted that there is a potential link and we need more research to better understand this. While it is plausible that there could be an effect, it is important to bear in mind that all treatments for cancer will have side effects of some form. We need to understand these so that men can make an informed choice.

Should men in the UK be worried about having hormone therapy?

No man should stop taking hormone therapy based on this study, which isn't conclusive enough for us to say anything for sure. Even one of the researchers behind it, Dr Kevin Nead, admitted: "I would definitely not alter clinical care based on our results." Hormone therapy is an important treatment for prostate cancer. By lowering the levels of testosterone in the body, the cancer cells grow more slowly and can give men many more years with their loved ones.

If you do have any concerns about your prostate cancer treatment, you can speak to our Specialist Nurses on 0800 074 8383 or chat to them online.

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