NCI medNews

Integrative, alternative, and complementary therapies statement for Patients


Prostate Cancer, Nutrition, and Dietary Supplements (PDQ)


Introduction
Overview of CAM Use in Prostate Cancer
Questions and Answers About Calcium
Questions and Answers About Green Tea
Questions and Answers About Lycopene
Questions and Answers About Modified Citrus Pectin
Questions and Answers About Pomegranate
Questions and Answers About Selenium
Questions and Answers About Soy
Questions and Answers About Vitamin D
Questions and Answers About Vitamin E
Combination Therapies
Other Prostate Health Supplements
About This PDQ Summary
General CAM Information
Evaluation of CAM Therapies
Questions to Ask Your Health Care Provider About CAM
To Learn More About CAM

Introduction

Men in the United States get prostate cancer more than any other type of cancer except skin cancer. It is found mainly in older men. In the United States, about one out of five men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die of it.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a form of treatment used in addition to (complementary) or instead of (alternative) standard treatments. CAM treatments generally are not considered standard medical approaches. Standard treatments go through a long and careful research process to prove they are safe and effective, but less is known about most types of CAM.

CAM use among prostate cancer patients is reported to be common. CAM treatments used by prostate cancer patients include certain foods, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, and minerals.

This PDQ summary gives general information about using foods and dietary supplements to lower the risk of developing prostate cancer or for treating prostate cancer, its symptoms, or side effects of disease treatment. In addition, this summary has sections for several specific foods or dietary supplements:

More topics will be added over time. Note: A separate PDQ summary on PC-SPES is also available.

These sections include the following information for each food or dietary supplement:

Overview of CAM Use in Prostate Cancer

Studies of CAM use to treat prostate cancer have shown the following:

Studies of CAM use to lower the risk of developing prostate cancer or to prevent it from coming back have shown the following:

Studies of why prostate cancer patients do or don't decide to use CAM show that their choice is based on many factors, including their medical history, their beliefs about the safety and side effects of CAM compared to standard treatments, and their need to feel in control of their treatment.

Questions and Answers About Calcium

What is calcium?

Calcium is a mineral that is needed for basic blood vessel, muscle, and nerve functions, cell-to-cell signaling, and hormone release. It is the most common mineral in the body. The body stores calcium mainly in bone tissue. Calcium naturally occurs in some foods and is added to other foods. It is also available as a dietary supplement.

How is calcium administered or consumed?

The main sources of calcium in the American diet are foods and dietary supplements. About one-third of dietary calcium comes from milk and milk products like cheese and yogurt. Vegetable sources include Chinese cabbage, kale, and broccoli. Spinach contains calcium but it is not in a form that is well absorbed by the body. Foods with calcium added include many fruit juices and drinks, tofu, and cereals.

In the United States, almost half the population takes dietary supplements containing calcium. However, most research about calcium and prostate cancer risk has studied only calcium consumed in the diet and not calcium taken in supplements.

Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using calcium?

Laboratory and animal research has been done to study the effects of calcium in prostate cancer.

Studies of calcium in the laboratory have shown the following:

Studies of calcium in animal models of prostate cancer have shown the following:

Have any clinical trials (research studies with people) of calcium been conducted?

Studies of people in many parts of the world have been done to find out if there is a link between dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk.

Population studies

Population studies look for risk factors and ways to control disease in large groups of people.

Population studies of dairy products, dietary calcium, and prostate cancer risk have shown mixed results. These studies may be hard to interpret because other major nutrients in dairy products, such as fats, and factors such as age and body mass index have not been taken into account.

Overall, however, studies suggest that high total calcium intake may be linked with increased risk of advanced and metastatic prostate cancer compared with lower amounts of calcium. More studies are needed about the effects of calcium and/or dairy products on prostate cancer risk and how these effects develop in the body.

Clinical trial of preventing prostate cancer

In a randomized clinical trial reported in 2005, men were given calcium (1200 mg/day) or a placebo for 4 years and were followed up for 12 years. During the first 6 years of the study, there were markedly fewer cases of prostate cancer in the calcium group compared to the placebo group. After 10 years, however, there was no meaningful difference in the number of prostate cancers in the calcium group compared to the placebo group.

Reviews of many studies combined

Reviews of many studies combined showed mixed findings about whether consuming calcium and dairy products affects the risk of prostate cancer:

Is calcium approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a cancer treatment in the United States?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of calcium as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.

Calcium is available in the United States in food products and dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are products meant to be added to the diet. They are not drugs and are not meant to treat, prevent, or cure diseases. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe and that the label claims are truthful and not misleading. The FDA does not approve dietary supplements as safe or effective before they are sold.

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Green Tea

What is green tea?

Tea has been consumed in Asia since ancient times. Sailors first brought tea to England in the 17th century. Other than water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. The way the leaves of this plant are processed determines the type of tea produced.

Many of the possible health benefits studied in green tea are thought to be from compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols are a large group of plant chemicals that include catechins (antioxidants that help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals).

Catechins make up most of the polyphenols in green tea. Green tea catechins (GTCs) include:

EGCC is the most active catechin in green tea and has been widely researched. Laboratory studies, animal studies, and early phase clinical trials have found that EGCG may be highly active in blocking pathways that involve the growth of prostate cancer cells.

To make green tea, the tea leaves are roasted in a wok (or, historically, steamed) to preserve the catechins and retain freshness. Black tea is made using a process that causes the catechins and other compounds in the leaves to oxidize, producing darker colored tea. Oolong tea is made from partially oxidized leaves.

Some studies suggest that green tea may protect against cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer, including prostate cancer. Clinical trials designed to study whether green tea is useful in treating prostate cancer are in the early stages. There is not enough evidence to show whether green tea is effective in treating prostate cancer.

How is green tea administered or consumed?

Green tea may be consumed as a beverage or taken in dietary supplements.

Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using green tea?

Laboratory and animal research has been done to study the effects of green tea in prostate cancer.

Studies of green tea in the laboratory have shown the following:

Studies of green tea in animal models of prostate cancer have shown the following:

Have any clinical trials (research studies with people) of green tea been conducted?

Population studies and clinical trials have been done to find out if green tea may be useful in preventing or treating prostate cancer.

Population studies

Population studies look for risk factors and ways to control disease in large groups of people.

A review of many population studies combined, mainly from Asia, showed mixed findings about whether green tea had a protective effect or no effect on prostate cancer risk. Many factors may be involved in these mixed results, including study location, tobacco and alcohol use, and other dietary differences. Black tea was not found to affect prostate cancer risk.

Overall, population studies suggest that green tea may help protect against prostate cancer in Asian populations. Prostate cancer deaths there are among the lowest in the world. As more people drink green tea worldwide, including in the United States, further population studies will add to information about whether green tea or green tea catechins may help protect against prostate cancer.

Clinical trials of preventing prostate cancer

In 2 randomized clinical trials in men with high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN), those treated with green tea catechins had lower rates of developing prostate cancer than those treated with a placebo. The findings suggest that green tea catechins may lower the risk of prostate cancer in patients at high risk for the disease.

Clinical trials of treating prostate cancer

Clinical trials designed to study whether green tea is useful in treating prostate cancer have shown the following:

Patients scheduled to undergo radical prostatectomy were assigned to drink green tea, black tea, or soda five times/ day for 5 days. Bioavailable tea polyphenols were found in prostate tissue samples of patients who drank either green tea or black tea. In addition, prostate cancer cells treated with blood taken from patients after they drank tea grew and divided more slowly than cells treated with blood taken from patients before they drank tea.

Fifty patients scheduled to undergo radical prostatectomy were assigned to take Polyphenon E (800 mg EGCG) or a placebo daily for 3 to 6 weeks. Patients treated with Polyphenon E had lower blood levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (a protein linked with increased risk of prostate cancer) than patients treated with placebo, but these differences were not meaningful. The findings suggest that the possible anticancer effects of green tea polyphenols may need to be studied in longer treatment trials.

Patients scheduled to undergo radical prostatectomy were assigned to drink either green tea, black tea, or water on a daily basis. In this study, only the men drinking green tea showed a small but notable decrease in PSA levels.

A small group of hormone-refractory prostate cancer patients were given capsules of green tea extract (375 mg total polyphenols/ day) for up to 5 months. The study showed that the green tea treatment was well tolerated by most of the patients. However, no patient had a meaningful decrease in PSA levels and all 19 patients had disease progression within 1 to 5 months.

Patients with androgen-independent prostate cancer that had spread to other places in the body consumed powdered green tea extract (6 grams/ day for up to 4 months). Of the forty-two participants, one had a meaningful decrease in blood PSA levels which did not last longer than 2 months. Green tea extract was well tolerated by most of the study patients. However, there were 6 reports of serious side effects, including insomnia, confusion, and fatigue. The findings suggest that green tea extract may have limited benefits in patients with advanced prostate cancer.

Have any side effects or risks been reported from green tea?

Phase I/II clinical studies have shown that EGCG in doses up to 1000 mg a day for up to a year is absorbed and used by the body with few side effects. A trial of oral green tea extract in patients with solid tumors reported that a safe dose was equal to 7-8 cups (120 ml/cup) of tea 3 times a day for 6 months. Side effects were found to be caused by the caffeine and not the EGCG.

Four phase I studies of Polyphenon E in single doses or multidoses were done in healthy volunteers. Polyphenon E was given in a range of doses and found to be well tolerated. Side effects were generally mild, with no serious side effects reported. The most frequently reported side effects thought to be related to the drug include headache, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, upset stomach, dizziness, and weakness. Gastrointestinal side effects were usually mild, occurring most often in patients taking the drug on an empty stomach and at the highest doses.

In safety studies of patients with prostate cancer, short-term green tea use for up to 90 days was well tolerated. One study found that the most commonly reported side effects of green tea were gastrointestinal symptoms. These were mild except for two reports of severe anorexia and moderate breathing problems.

Clinical trials have reported on the safety of long-term use of green tea compounds for the prevention of prostate cancer. In a United States trial, men at risk of prostate cancer were given 400 mg of Polyphenon E or a placebo for 1 year. There were more possible side effects reported in the group receiving the Polyphenon E than in the group receiving the placebo.

The FDA Division of Drug Oncology Products recommends that Polyphenon E should be taken with food by patients in clinical trials and that liver function tests should be considered during treatment.

Various types and doses of green tea extracts taken by mouth have been linked with several cases of liver damage in recent years. Most of those affected were women and many were taking green tea extract for weight loss. Most patients recovered within 4 months after stopping the green tea extract. However, there is one case report of acute liver failure in a woman who then needed a liver transplant. Her doctors concluded that her condition was likely caused by over-the-counter green tea extract capsules for weight loss.

Is green tea approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a cancer treatment in the United States?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of green tea as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.

Green tea is available in the United States in food products and dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are products meant to be added to the diet. They are not drugs and are not meant to treat, prevent, or cure diseases. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe and that the label claims are truthful and not misleading. The FDA does not approve dietary supplements as safe or effective before they are sold.

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Lycopene

What is lycopene?

Lycopene is a carotenoid (a natural pigment made by plants). It is red in color and tends to combine with or dissolve in fats. Lycopene protects plants from light-related stress and helps them use the energy of the sun to make nutrients. Lycopene is found in fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, apricots, guavas, and watermelons.

The main source of lycopene in the American diet is tomato-based products. Lycopene is more bioavailable (easier for the body to use) in processed tomato products like tomato paste and tomato puree than in raw tomatoes.

Lycopene has been studied for its role in cardiovascular disease and cancer. Population studies of lycopene in the diet suggest that it may help prevent cardiovascular disease through its effects on cholesterol, but some studies show mixed results.

Laboratory and animal studies have shown that lycopene may help lower the risk of prostate, skin, breast, lung, and liver cancers. However, population studies have found very limited evidence that consuming tomato products or lycopene lowers the risk of cancer.

How is lycopene administered or consumed?

Lycopene may be consumed in the diet or taken in dietary supplements.

Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using lycopene?

Laboratory research and animal studies have been done to find out if lycopene may be useful in preventing or treating prostate cancer.

Studies of lycopene in the laboratory have shown the following:

Studies of animal models of prostate cancer treated with lycopene have shown the following:

Have any population studies or clinical trials (research studies with people) of lycopene been conducted?

Several population studies and clinical trials have been done to find out if lycopene may be useful in preventing or treating prostate cancer.

Population studies

Population studies look for risk factors and ways to control disease in large groups of people. Population studies of prostate cancer risk have shown the following mixed results:

Many issues may be involved in these mixed findings, including sources and types of lycopene, other dietary differences, obesity, tobacco and alcohol use, and genetic risk factors. Most research has studied the effects of lycopene on the risk of all prostate cancers, and has not studied effects of lycopene on low-grade compared with high-grade disease.

Clinical trials of prevention or treatment of early prostate cancer

Clinical trials designed to study whether lycopene is useful in preventing or treating early prostate cancer have shown the following:

There are other trials of combination therapies that include lycopene in the Combination Therapies section of this summary.

Clinical trials of treating prostate cancer

Clinical trials designed to study whether lycopene is useful in treating prostate cancer have shown the following:

There are other trials of combination therapies that include lycopene in the Combination Therapies section of this summary.

Have any side effects or risks been reported from lycopene?

Lycopene has been consumed in many clinical trials with very few side effects by men at high risk for prostate cancer and by prostate cancer patients. Patients have had only occasional gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, bloating, gassiness and stomach irritation). In one study, symptoms went away when lycopene was taken with meals.

Is lycopene approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use to prevent or treat cancer in the United States?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of lycopene as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.

Lycopene is available in the United States in food products and dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are products meant to be added to the diet. They are not drugs and are not meant to treat, prevent, or cure diseases. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe and that the label claims are truthful and not misleading. The FDA does not approve dietary supplements as safe or effective before they are sold.

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Modified Citrus Pectin

What is modified citrus pectin?

Pectin is a type of polysaccharide (a carbohydrate with many small sugar molecules that are chemically linked). Pectin is found in the cell walls of most plants and has gel-like qualities that are useful in making many types of food and medicine.

Citrus pectin is found in the peel and pulp of citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes. Citrus pectin can be modified with high pH and heat to break its molecules into smaller pieces. Modified citrus pectin (also called MCP) can be digested and absorbed by the body.

How is MCP administered or consumed?

MCP may be taken by mouth in powder or capsule form.

Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using MCP?

A study in prostate cancer cells compared 3 different kinds of pectin: citrus pectin, PectaSol (a dietary supplement with MCP), and fractionated pectin powder. Prostate cancer cells treated with the pectin powder had more damage than those treated with citrus pectin or PectaSol. However, when citrus pectin was modified by heating it, it caused the same amount of damage to prostate cancer cells as the pectin powder.

Only a few studies have reported the effects of MCP in animal models of cancer, including one prostate cancer study. Rats injected with prostate cancer cells and treated with MCP showed less spread of the cancer to the lungs but no effect on tumor growth at the original cancer site.

Have any population studies or clinical trials (research studies with people) of MCP been conducted?

A few studies in prostate cancer patients suggest that MCP may have some anticancer benefits.

In a study of patients with advanced solid tumors, including prostate cancers, MCP powder in water was given 3 times/ day for at least 8 weeks. The study showed some quality of life improvements in physical functioning, overall health, fatigue, pain, and insomnia. About one-fourth of patients showed stable disease after 8 weeks of treatment and a smaller number had stable disease for more than 24 weeks. Since the study did not include a group of patients who did not receive MCP for comparison, it was not designed to be able to tell if any of these changes were due to the addition of MCP. The primary goal of the study was to determine if MCP would be well tolerated by cancer patients, and it was.

In a study of the effect of MCP on prostate-specific antigen (PSA) doubling time (how long it takes PSA levels in the blood to increase by 100 percent), prostate cancer patients who had rising PSA levels were given 6 PectaSol capsules 3 times/ day for 12 months. After treatment, 7 out of 10 patients showed a slowing of PSA doubling time.

Have any side effects or risks been reported from MCP?

Two studies of MCP showed that most patients had very few side effects. Itching, stomach upset, and gassiness were reported in one study. In another study, 3 patients had abdominal cramps and diarrhea that went away when their treatment was stopped.

Is MCP approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use to prevent or treat cancer in the United States?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of MCP as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.

MCP is available in the United States in food products and dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are products meant to be added to the diet. They are not drugs and are not meant to treat, prevent, or cure diseases. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe and that the label claims are truthful and not misleading. The FDA does not approve dietary supplements as safe or effective before they are sold.

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Pomegranate

What is pomegranate?

The pomegranate fruit (Punica granatum L.) is native to Asia and grown throughout the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, East Indies, Africa, and the United States. Pomegranate has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times.

Different parts of the pomegranate fruit have bioactive compounds (chemicals found in small amounts that have actions in the body that may promote good health). These include:

How is pomegranate administered or consumed?

Pomegranate may be consumed in the diet or taken in dietary supplements.

Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using pomegranate?

Laboratory studies of pomegranate in cancer cell lines include the following:

Studies of animal models of prostate cancer in which the animals were given pomegranate have shown the following:

Have any clinical trials (research studies with people) of pomegranate been conducted?

Three clinical trials studied the effect of pomegranate products on prostate-specific antigen doubling time (PSADT) in patients with recurrent prostate cancer who had rising PSA levels after surgery or radiation therapy.

In a phase II study reported in 2006, 48 patients were given 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily for up to 33 months. Drinking pomegranate juice was related to a slowing of PSA doubling time (how long it takes PSA levels in the blood to increase by 100 percent).

In a phase II study reported in 2013, patients were given 1 gram or 3 gram doses of pomegranate extract. Both doses of pomegranate extract (equal to either 8 ounces or 24 ounces of pomegranate juice) were related to a slowing of PSA doubling time. Results were similar in patients who received either the low dose or high dose of pomegranate extract.

In a phase III placebo-controlled clinical trial reported in 2015, 183 patients were given either pomegranate juice, pomegranate extract, or a placebo. The study found no meaningful difference in the PSA doubling time for the 3 groups.

These studies differed in PSA levels of the patients enrolled and whether there was a placebo group. All three trials found that pomegranate extract was safe to consume. Further studies may be able to show whether patients with certain genetic markers will benefit from pomegranate products.

Have any side effects or risks been reported from pomegranate?

Two studies of pomegranate juice in either prostate cancer patients or patients with erectile dysfunction reported no serious side effects.

Is there any reason people should avoid pomegranate juice?

Some pomegranate products may contain added sugar. Certain groups, such as the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), recommend avoiding sugary drinks. For more information, see the AICR website.

Is pomegranate approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use to prevent or treat cancer in the United States?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of pomegranate as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.

Pomegranate is available in the United States in food products and dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are products meant to be added to the diet. They are not drugs and are not meant to treat, prevent, or cure diseases. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe and that the label claims are truthful and not misleading. The FDA does not approve dietary supplements as safe or effective before they are sold.

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Selenium

What is selenium?

Selenium is a trace mineral (a nutrient that is essential to humans in tiny amounts). Selenium is found in certain proteins that are active in many body functions, including reproduction and immunity. Food sources of selenium include meat, vegetables, and nuts. The amount of selenium found in the food depends on the selenium content of the soil where the food grows. Selenium is stored in the thyroid gland, liver, pancreas, pituitary gland, and kidneys.

Selenium is found in an enzyme called glutathione peroxidase which acts as an antioxidant. However, in high amounts, selenium may act as a pro-oxidant (a substance that can make oxygen byproducts that may damage cells).

Selenium may play a role in many diseases, including cancer. Animal and population studies have suggested that supplementing the diet with selenium may lower the risk of cancer. Results from the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial (NPC) showed that, although selenium supplements did not affect the risk of skin cancer, they markedly lowered the rates of lung, colorectal, and prostate cancer. However, studies of how selenium levels in the blood affect the risk of developing of prostate cancer have shown mixed results. Results of the large National Cancer Institute-sponsored Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) caution against the use of selenium supplements among men with prostate cancer, and other studies have concluded that men should avoid selenium supplementation at doses that are higher than the recommended dietary intake.

How is selenium administered or consumed?

Selenium may be consumed in the diet or taken in dietary supplements. For adults, the recommended daily allowance for selenium is 55 g/day.

Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using selenium?

Laboratory studies to find out if selenium may be useful in preventing or treating prostate cancer have shown the following:

Studies of selenium in animal models of prostate cancer have shown the following:

Have any population studies or clinical trials (research studies with people) of selenium been conducted?

Population studies and clinical trials have been done to find out if selenium may be useful in preventing or treating prostate cancer.

Population studies

Population studies look for risk factors and ways to control disease in large groups of people.

Studies of how selenium levels in the blood affect the risk of developing of prostate cancer have shown mixed results. One study tracking subjects for up to 10 years found that men with higher levels of selenium in their blood had a lower risk of prostate cancer. Another study found that prostate cancer patients had lower whole blood selenium levels than did healthy men. However, a 2009 study of prostate cancer patients found that men with higher selenium levels in their blood were at greater risk of being diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. These differences may be due to genetic variations among individual patients.

Clinical trials of preventing/ treating prostate cancer

Clinical trials of the effects of selenium on prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels or the development of prostate cancer have shown mixed results, including the following:

The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT)

The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) was a large clinical trial begun by the National Institutes of Health in 2001 to study the effects of selenium and/or vitamin E on the development of prostate cancer. Over 35,000 men, aged 50 years and older, were randomly assigned to receive one of the following combinations daily for 7-12 years:

First results of SELECT reported in 2009 found no meaningful difference in the rate of prostate cancer among the 4 groups. In the Vitamin E alone group, there was a slight increase in the rate of prostate cancer and in the selenium alone group, there was a slight increase in the rate of diabetes. Even though these changes were not clearly shown to be due to the supplement, the men in the study were advised to stop taking the study supplements.

Updated results of SELECT in 2011 showed that selenium supplements had no meaningful effect on prostate cancer risk; however, men taking vitamin E alone had a 17% increase in prostate cancer risk compared to men in the placebo group.

In 2014, further results of SELECT showed that selenium supplements in men with low selenium levels at the start of the trial had no effect on prostate cancer risk; however, selenium supplements in men who had high levels of selenium at the start of the trial increased the risk of high-grade prostate cancer.

Several factors may have affected study results, including the dose of vitamin E chosen and the form of selenium used. The authors concluded that men should avoid selenium supplementation at doses that are higher than the recommended dietary intake.

A cohort study of 1,434 men enrolled in SELECT suggested that variations in certain genes which control the ways selenium and vitamin E are processed by the body may have an effect on the risk of prostate cancer, including high-grade prostate cancer.

Are there any risks in taking selenium supplements, and have any side effects been reported?

Selenium supplements have been well tolerated in many clinical trials. Patients are closely monitored and given specific doses in clinical trials within the study criteria. In two published trials, there were no differences reported in adverse effects between placebo or treatment groups. However, in the SELECT trial, the use of selenium supplements (L-selenomethionine, 200 g daily) was linked with a slight increase in the rate of diabetes mellitus.

Is selenium approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a cancer treatment in the United States?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of selenium supplements for the treatment or prevention of cancer or any other medical condition.

Selenium is available in the United States in food products and dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are products meant to be added to the diet. They are not drugs and are not meant to treat, prevent, or cure diseases. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe and that the label claims are truthful and not misleading. The FDA does not approve dietary supplements as safe or effective before they are sold.

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Soy

What is soy?

The soybean plant has been grown in Asia for food since ancient times. Soy first arrived in Europe and North America in the 18th century. The soybean can be processed into a wide variety of products including soy milk, miso, tofu, soy flour, and oil.

Soy foods contain many phytochemicals that may have health benefits. Isoflavones are the most widely researched compounds in soy. Major isoflavones in the soybean include genistein (which may be the most bioactive isoflavone), daidzein, and glycitein. Isoflavones protect the soybean plant from stress and have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antifungal actions.

Isoflavones are phytoestrogens (estrogen-like substances found in plants) that attach to estrogen receptors in cells. Genistein has been shown to affect many pathways in prostate cancer cells involved in the growth and spread of cancer.

How is soy administered or consumed?

Soy may be consumed in the diet or taken in dietary supplements.

Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using soy?

Laboratory research and animal studies have been done to find out if soy may be useful in preventing or treating prostate cancer.

Studies of soy in the laboratory have shown the following:

Studies of animal models of prostate cancer treated with soy have shown the following mixed results:

Have any population studies or clinical trials (research studies with people) of soy been conducted?

Many population studies and clinical trials have been done to find out if soy may be useful in preventing or treating prostate cancer. Soy products studied include dietary supplements, drinks, and bread.

Population studies

Population studies look for risk factors and ways to control disease in large groups of people. Population studies of soy intake and prostate cancer risk have shown the following mixed results:

Clinical trials of preventing prostate cancer

Clinical trials of treating prostate cancer

Have any side effects or risks been reported from soy?

Soy products and isoflavones have been consumed by prostate cancer patients with very few side effects in many clinical trials. The most commonly reported side effects were minor gastrointestinal symptoms.

Is soy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use to prevent or treat cancer in the United States?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of soy as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.

Soy is available in the United States in food products and dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are products meant to be added to the diet. They are not drugs and are not meant to treat, prevent, or cure diseases. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe and that the label claims are truthful and not misleading. The FDA does not approve dietary supplements as safe or effective before they are sold.

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Vitamin D

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D (also called calcipotriol, cholecarciferol, or ergocalciferol) is a fat-soluble vitamin found in fatty fish, fish liver oil, eggs, and enriched dairy products.

Vitamin D has many actions in the body, including the following:

Vitamin D is needed for bone growth and protects against osteoporosis in adults. Vitamin D level is usually checked by measuring the amount of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the blood.

What are the sources of vitamin D?

Vitamin D is made naturally by the body when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D may also be consumed in the diet or taken in dietary supplements.

Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using vitamin D?

Laboratory and animal research studies suggest that vitamin D may have effects on prostate cancer cells through various pathways.

Preclinical studies of vitamin D in prostate cancer have shown the following:

Have any population studies or clinical trials (research studies with people) of vitamin D been conducted?

Many population studies and clinical trials have been done to find out if vitamin D may be useful in preventing or treating prostate cancer.

Population studies

Population studies look for risk factors and ways to control disease in large groups of people. Population studies of vitamin D and prostate cancer risk have shown the following mixed results:

Reviews of many population studies combined

A 2008 review of 45 observational studies combined found no link between intake of vitamin D and prostate cancer risk.

A 2011 review of 25 studies combined found no link between either vitamin D in the diet or blood levels of vitamin D and the risk of prostate cancer.

A 2014 review of 21 studies combined found that high levels of vitamin D in the blood may be linked with a higher risk of prostate cancer. Many factors may affect these findings, since some studies propose men from higher income groups may have higher vitamin D levels and are more likely to get PSA testing, leading to higher rates of reported prostate cancer.

Clinical trials of treating prostate cancer

Clinical trials in patients with prostate cancer have shown the following:

Have any side effects or risks been reported from vitamin D?

Vitamin D can be toxic when taken at high doses (10,000 to 50,000 IU per day) over a period of many years. Taking high levels of Vitamin D can cause too much calcium to be absorbed through the intestines, leading to rapid increases in blood calcium levels. This condition is called hypercalcemia.

Signs and symptoms of hypercalcemia may include frequent and excessive urination, excessive thirst, poor kidney function, and calcium build-up in soft tissues. There may be effects on the brain including depression and anorexia.

In a group of 26 studies, Vitamin D was reviewed for safety, effectiveness, and whether it interacts with drugs used to treat prostate cancer and other tumors. Calcitriol was the most common form of vitamin D used in these studies. The reviewers found no adverse effects beyond those expected from high-dose calcitriol, and the risk of drug interactions was found to be low.

A number of studies looked at the safety and effectiveness of high-dose calcitriol combined with chemotherapy (docetaxel) to treat men with androgen-independent prostate cancer. No higher levels of toxicity were found compared to treatment with docetaxel alone.

Is vitamin D approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a cancer treatment in the United States?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of vitamin D as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.

Vitamin D is available in the United States in food products and dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are products meant to be added to the diet. They are not drugs and are not meant to treat, prevent, or cure diseases. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe and that the label claims are truthful and not misleading. The FDA does not approve dietary supplements as safe or effective before they are sold.

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Questions and Answers About Vitamin E

What is vitamin E?

Vitamin E is a nutrient that may protect against chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Vitamin E is being studied in the prevention of some types of cancer.

There are eight different forms of vitamin E: four tocopherols (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and sigma-) and four tocotrienols (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and sigma-). Compared with other tocopherols, alpha-tocopherol (the form of vitamin E commonly found in dietary supplements) is found in greater amounts in the body and is the most active. Most vitamin E in the diet comes from gamma-tocopherol. Food sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, nuts, and egg yolks.

Many of the possible health benefits of Vitamin E may be from its antioxidant activity. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects cell membranes from damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin E also has other functions involved in cell signaling pathways and gene expression.

How is vitamin E administered or consumed?

Vitamin E may be consumed in the diet or taken in dietary supplements.

Have any clinical trials (research studies with people) of vitamin E been conducted?

Population studies and clinical trials have been done to find out if vitamin E may be useful in preventing or treating prostate cancer.

Population studies

Population studies look for risk factors and ways to control disease in large groups of people. Population studies of vitamin E in prostate cancer risk have shown the following:

Clinical trials of preventing or treating prostate cancer

The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT)

The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) was a large clinical trial begun by the National Institutes of Health in 2001 to study the effects of selenium and/or vitamin E on the development of prostate cancer. Over 35,000 men, aged 50 years and older, were randomly assigned to receive one of the following combinations daily for 7-12 years:

First SELECT results reported in 2009 found no meaningful differences in rates of prostate cancer among the 4 groups. In the Vitamin E alone group, there was a slight increase in the rate of prostate cancer and in the selenium alone group, there was a slight increase in the rate of diabetes. Based on those findings, the men in the study were advised to stop taking the study supplements.

Updated SELECT results in 2011 showed that selenium supplements had no meaningful effect on prostate cancer risk; however, men taking vitamin E alone had a 17% increase in prostate cancer risk compared to men in the placebo group.

In 2014, further SELECT results showed that vitamin E supplements alone had no effect on prostate cancer risk in men with high levels of selenium at the start of the trial; however, vitamin E supplements increased the risk of low-grade and high-grade prostate cancer in men with lower levels of selenium at the start of the trial.

Several factors may have affected study results, including the dose of vitamin E chosen and the form of selenium used.

A cohort study of 1,434 men enrolled in SELECT suggested that variations in certain genes which control the ways selenium and vitamin E are processed by the body may have an effect on the risk of prostate cancer, including high-grade prostate cancer.

Have any side effects or risks been reported from vitamin E?

Alpha-tocopherols are deemed Generally Recognized as Safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In the Physicians’ Health Study II, there were no marked differences in rates of gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, drowsiness, skin discoloration or rashes, or migraine between men who took vitamin E (400 IU every other day of alpha-tocopherol) and those who took a placebo. However, there was a higher number of hemorrhagic strokes in men who took vitamin E than in men who took a placebo. In the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group, there was also an increase in hemorrhagic strokes among men in the group that took vitamin E (50 mg/ day of alpha-tocopherol).

Earlier results from the SELECT trial showed no marked differences in rates of less severe adverse effects (such as hair loss, inflamed skin, and nausea) in the groups that took vitamin E (400 IU/ day of all-rac-alpha-tocopherol) compared to the other treatment groups. Later follow-up of SELECT participants showed an increased risk of prostate cancer among men in the vitamin E alone group.

Is vitamin E approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a cancer treatment in the United States?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of vitamin E as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.

Vitamin E is available in the United States in food products and dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are products meant to be added to the diet. They are not drugs and are not meant to treat, prevent, or cure diseases. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe and that the label claims are truthful and not misleading. The FDA does not approve dietary supplements as safe or effective before they are sold.

Current Clinical Trials

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Combination Therapies

Pomi-T (Pomegranate, Green Tea, Broccoli, and Turmeric)

Polyphenols are compounds found in many plants and give some flowers, fruits, and vegetables their color. Polyphenols have antioxidant activity that helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

A food supplement (Pomi-T) that is high in polyphenols was studied in a group of men who had prostate cancer that had not spread. This supplement contained a combination of the following:

These ingredients were raw, dry, plant-based powders that were not standardized (a standardized herbal supplement has one or more active ingredients measured in a specific amount, so that the product is the same from batch to batch).

In a randomized clinical trial, 199 men were given either Pomi-T or a placebo for 6 months. Before the study began, slightly less than half of the men had rising prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels after being treated with local therapy, and slightly more than half of the men were on active surveillance (not yet treated). In the Pomi-T group, median PSA levels rose much less than in the group that took the placebo. The food supplement was well tolerated and there were no marked differences reported in adverse effects between supplement and placebo groups. However, patients in the supplement group were more likely to have gastrointestinal symptoms (i.e., more gas and loose bowels).

Lycopene, Selenium, and Green Tea

A randomized clinical trial of a supplement containing lycopene, selenium, and green tea catechins enrolled men with high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN). Patients who received the supplement were found to have higher rates of prostate cancer when they had a repeat biopsy after 6 months compared to those who did not receive the supplement. Since this may be due to cancers missed at the start of the study, more research is needed.

Lycopene and Other Therapies

A randomized study enrolled 79 patients who were scheduled to undergo prostatectomy. For 3 weeks before the procedure, the men were assigned to consume either: 1) tomato products containing lycopene; 2) tomato products plus selenium, omega 3-fatty acids, soy isoflavones, grape/pomegranate juice, and green/black tea; or 3) a control diet. There were no differences in PSA values between the nutrition-based groups and the control group. However, lower PSA values were found in men with intermediate risk prostate cancer who consumed the tomato products and in patients with the highest increases in lycopene levels.

Questions and Answers About Zyflamend

What is Zyflamend?

Zyflamend is a dietary supplement that contains extracts of 10 different herbs in olive oil:

The extracts found in Zyflamend have anti-inflammatory activity and possible anticancer benefits. There is limited evidence about how Zyflamend may act against tumor growth. Zyflamend has been shown to interfere with the activity of COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, which are involved in the development of inflammation and possibly cancer. Zyflamend may also act against the NF-kappa B and lipoxygenase (LOX) families of proteins that stimulate tumor growth.

How is Zyflamend administered or consumed?

Zyflamend is taken as a dietary supplement in capsule form.

Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using Zyflamend?

Laboratory and animal research has recently been done to study the effects of Zyflamend in cancer.

Studies of Zyflamend in the laboratory have shown the following:

Studies of Zyflamend in animal models of cancer have shown the following:

Have any clinical trials (research studies with people) of Zyflamend been conducted?

A report of one patient with high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN) who received Zyflamend 3 times/ day for 18 months showed that PSA levels were not affected. However, at the end of 18 months of treatment, repeat biopsies of the prostate did not show HGPIN or cancer.

In a phase I safety study of Zyflamend, patients with HGPIN took Zyflamend (780 mg) 3 times/ day for 18 months with additional dietary supplements (probiotic supplement, multivitamin, green and white tea extract, Baikal skullcap, docosahexaenoic acid, holy basil, and turmeric). Zyflamend and the added dietary supplements were well tolerated and there were no serious side effects. At the end of 18 months of treatment, more than half of patients had benign biopsy results, about one-fourth had HGPIN, and about one in 8 had prostate cancer.

Have any side effects or risks been reported from Zyflamend?

A phase I safety study of Zyflamend (described above) reported no toxicity or serious side effects. Some of the patients had mild heartburn that went away when Zyflamend was taken with food.

Is Zyflamend approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a cancer treatment in the United States?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of Zyflamend as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.

Zyflamend is available in the United States as a dietary supplement. Dietary supplements are products meant to be added to the diet. They are not drugs and are not meant to treat, prevent, or cure diseases. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the product is safe and that the label claims are truthful and not misleading. The FDA does not approve dietary supplements as safe or effective before they are sold.

Other Prostate Health Supplements

Overview

Many widely available dietary supplements are marketed to support prostate health. African Cherry (pygeum africanum) and beta-sitosterol are two related supplements that have been studied as possible prostate cancer treatments. Note: A separate PDQ summary on PC-SPES is also available.

African Cherry / P. africanum

African cherry or Pygeum africanum is a tree that grows in tropical climates. It is found in a number of African countries including Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda, and Nigeria. Bark from the P. africanum tree was used by African tribes to relieve urinary symptoms and stomach pain. In the 18th century, European travelers learned from South African tribes that P. africanum could treat bladder discomfort and “old man’s disease” (enlarged prostate).

Since 1969, bark extracts from P. africanum have been available as prescription drugs in Europe and have been widely used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The bark contains a number of compounds including fatty acids and phytosterols (e.g., beta-sitosterol). The bark is processed and purified as an extract.

Laboratory studies and animal studies have shown that two substances in bark extract from P. africanum are active in blocking cells from taking up androgen. The antiandrogen activity found in P. africanum is at a markedly lower concentration than the antiandrogen activity found in flutamide (an anticancer drug).

Beta-Sitosterol

Beta-sitosterol is a member of the phytosterol family of phytochemicals and is widely found in plant life in different amounts. It is found in African cherry (Pygeum africanum), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), and various nuts, beans, and seeds. It is one of several phytosterols (plant sterols) that have a chemical structure similar to cholesterol. Phytosterols, including beta-sitosterol, limit the amount of cholesterol that can be absorbed from the diet and they are being studied for their potential to protect against cardiovascular disease. Beta-sitosterol is very poorly absorbed by the body.

Studies suggest that phytosterols may have anticancer activity, but their exact actions are unknown. Phytosterols may affect immune and hormonal systems or may directly target cell cycles and cause cell death in tumors.

Laboratory studies have shown that high concentrations of beta-sitosterol markedly slow the growth of human prostate cancer cells and cause cancer cell death.

About This PDQ Summary

About PDQ

Physician Data Query (PDQ) is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. The PDQ database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries come in two versions. The health professional versions have detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions have cancer information that is accurate and up to date and most versions are also available in Spanish.

PDQ is a service of the NCI. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH is the federal government’s center of biomedical research. The PDQ summaries are based on an independent review of the medical literature. They are not policy statements of the NCI or the NIH.

Purpose of This Summary

This PDQ cancer information summary has current information about the use of nutrition and dietary supplements for reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer or for treating prostate cancer. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. It does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.

Reviewers and Updates

Editorial Boards write the PDQ cancer information summaries and keep them up to date. These Boards are made up of experts in cancer treatment and other specialties related to cancer. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made when there is new information. The date on each summary ("Date Last Modified") is the date of the most recent change.

The information in this patient summary was taken from the health professional version, which is reviewed regularly and updated as needed, by the PDQ Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board.

Clinical Trial Information

A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether one treatment is better than another. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients. During treatment clinical trials, information is collected about the effects of a new treatment and how well it works. If a clinical trial shows that a new treatment is better than one currently being used, the new treatment may become "standard." Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Clinical trials are listed in PDQ and can be found online at NCI's website. Many cancer doctors who take part in clinical trials are also listed in PDQ. For more information, call the Cancer Information Service 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

Permission to Use This Summary

PDQ is a registered trademark. The content of PDQ documents can be used freely as text. It cannot be identified as an NCI PDQ cancer information summary unless the whole summary is shown and it is updated regularly. However, a user would be allowed to write a sentence such as “NCI’s PDQ cancer information summary about breast cancer prevention states the risks in the following way: [include excerpt from the summary].”

The best way to cite this PDQ summary is:

PDQ Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. PDQ Prostate Cancer, Nutrition, and Dietary Supplements. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/prostate-supplements-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>. [PMID: 26389501]

Images in this summary are used with permission of the author(s), artist, and/or publisher for use in the PDQ summaries only. If you want to use an image from a PDQ summary and you are not using the whole summary, you must get permission from the owner. It cannot be given by the National Cancer Institute. Information about using the images in this summary, along with many other images related to cancer can be found in Visuals Online. Visuals Online is a collection of more than 2,000 scientific images.

Disclaimer

The information in these summaries should not be used to make decisions about insurance reimbursement. More information on insurance coverage is available on Cancer.gov on the Managing Cancer Care page.

Contact Us

More information about contacting us or receiving help with the Cancer.gov website can be found on our Contact Us for Help page. Questions can also be submitted to Cancer.gov through the website’s E-mail Us.

General CAM Information

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)—also called integrative medicine—includes a broad range of healing philosophies, approaches, and therapies. A therapy is generally called complementary when it is used in addition to conventional treatments; it is often called alternative when it is used instead of conventional treatment. (Conventional treatments are those that are widely accepted and practiced by the mainstream medical community.) Depending on how they are used, some therapies can be considered either complementary or alternative. Complementary and alternative therapies are used in an effort to prevent illness, reduce stress, prevent or reduce side effects and symptoms, or control or cure disease.

Unlike conventional treatments for cancer, complementary and alternative therapies are often not covered by insurance companies. Patients should check with their insurance provider to find out about coverage for complementary and alternative therapies.

Cancer patients considering complementary and alternative therapies should discuss this decision with their doctor, nurse, or pharmacist as they would any type of treatment. Some complementary and alternative therapies may affect their standard treatment or may be harmful when used with conventional treatment.

Evaluation of CAM Therapies

It is important that the same scientific methods used to test conventional therapies are used to test CAM therapies. The National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) are sponsoring a number of clinical trials (research studies) at medical centers to test CAM therapies for use in cancer.

Conventional approaches to cancer treatment have generally been studied for safety and effectiveness through a scientific process that includes clinical trials with large numbers of patients. Less is known about the safety and effectiveness of complementary and alternative methods. Few CAM therapies have been tested using demanding scientific methods. A small number of CAM therapies that were thought to be purely alternative approaches are now being used in cancer treatment—not as cures, but as complementary therapies that may help patients feel better and recover faster. One example is acupuncture. According to a panel of experts at a National Institutes of Health (NIH) meeting in November 1997, acupuncture has been found to help control nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy and pain related to surgery. However, some approaches, such as the use of laetrile, have been studied and found not to work and to possibly cause harm.

The NCI Best Case Series Program which was started in 1991, is one way CAM approaches that are being used in practice are being studied. The program is overseen by the NCI’s Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM). Health care professionals who offer alternative cancer therapies submit their patients’ medical records and related materials to OCCAM. OCCAM carefully reviews these materials to see if any seem worth further research.

Questions to Ask Your Health Care Provider About CAM

When considering complementary and alternative therapies, patients should ask their health care provider the following questions:

To Learn More About CAM

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) facilitates research and evaluation of complementary and alternative practices, and provides information about a variety of approaches to health professionals and the public.

CAM on PubMed

NCCIH and the NIH National Library of Medicine (NLM) jointly developed CAM on PubMed, a free and easy-to-use search tool for finding CAM-related journal citations. As a subset of the NLM's PubMed bibliographic database, CAM on PubMed features more than 230,000 references and abstracts for CAM-related articles from scientific journals. This database also provides links to the websites of over 1,800 journals, allowing users to view full-text articles. (A subscription or other fee may be required to access full-text articles.)

Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine

The NCI Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) coordinates the activities of the NCI in the area of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). OCCAM supports CAM cancer research and provides information about cancer-related CAM to health providers and the general public via the NCI website.

National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Information Service

U.S. residents may call the NCI Cancer Information Service toll free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. A trained Cancer Information Specialist is available to answer your questions.

Food and Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates drugs and medical devices to ensure that they are safe and effective.

Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces consumer protection laws. Publications available from the FTC include:

Physicians version: CDR0000719335
Date first published: 2012-02-01 Date last modified: 2017-09-14