March 26, 2004

Prostate Cancer Prevention

By Paul Reeves

Most of us value life tremendously and wish ourselves and those we love to live a long, prosperous, and fruitful life. Sadly, there are obstacles that can prevent us from achieving this goal. One such obstacle is prostate cancer. Cesar Gonzalez, a retired professor and cancer survivor, feels that the Hispanic community must get more involved with studies that are testing ways to prevent diseases such as prostate cancer. He mentioned the SELECT Trial as a good example of ways the community can get involved in exciting research. According to Gonzalez, “Our focus is on la lucha, (the struggle). In the face of “the struggle,” we see medical trials as a luxury, when in fact they are a necessity. It is important that these trials include people from all our communities so we and our children and grandchildren can all share in the benefits.”

The National Cancer Institute is sponsoring the SELECT Trial -a dietary study to determine whether vitamin E and/or selenium diet supplements can prevent the onset of prostate cancer. Fortunately for San Diego residents, the UCSD School of Medicine is one of the largest centers for this particular research. Ultimately 32,000 men may take part in the SELECT Trial. By taking part in the dietary study, the men will help doctors evaluate whether these two food ingredients reduce the number of men who later develop prostate cancer.

Men interested in taking part in the SELECT Trial will first receive a complete medical examination at no cost to them. If prostate cancer is found, men will be referred to their physician for treatment, or helped to find a physician if they do not already have one.

If no prostate cancer is found, men will be able to join the SELECT prevention study. Men taking part in the SELECT Trial will receive dietary supplements and medical attention at no cost to them throughout the study. Some men will be given selenium supplements, some will receive vitamin E, some will receive both supplements, and some will receive neither. The men will be followed up for the next twelve years.

Study participants may also gain knowledge about prostate cancer that can be passed on to loved ones and a better understanding about how medical progress occurs. Best of all, Hispanic men may learn if these dietary supplements will benefit them. Because vitamin E and selenium are normally found in foods, there are no known risks related to the dietary supplements themselves.

The SELECT Trial is particularly important for the Hispanic community because studies show that prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among Hispanic males. Unfortunately only a small number of Hispanic males have joined the SELECT Trial. According to Dr. Robert Langer, the Director of the San Diego research team, “Without more Hispanic men in the study, researchers will not be able to determine if the dietary supplements will benefit Hispanic males.” To be eligible, a man must be at least 55 years of age.

“Men are clearly interested in learning how to prevent this disease,” noted Dr. Alan Kristal, the key note speaker at the annual UCSD Cancer Center’s Maurice and Charmaine Kaplan Lecture at the Mission Bay Hilton last week. “We thought it would take us five years to get our sample of 32,000 men. Instead we will have that group in less than two and a half years. By April we expect to have all of our study participants.” With this kind of rapid response from the public, answers to these important questions will be available even sooner.

For more information on the SELECT Trial clinic sites in San Diego, call the UCSD campus in La Jolla, at 1 800-921-UCSD (8237) Toll Free. Or call (858) 622-5774. Or you can Email the SELECT staff at

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