A long-running study of men in the USA with enlarged non-cancerous prostates (benign prostatic hyperplasia – BPH) using finasteride previously reported a 25% reduction in overall numbers of patients developing prostate cancer. However, there was some debate about whether the prostate cancers detected in users of finasteride were of the more aggressive variety. A recent analysis of this study showed that finasteride users had lower levels of the prostate cancer screening test PSA (prostate specific antigen) which led to more accurate diagnosis of those patients actually suffering cancer rather than just an enlarged prostate. In addition, the smaller prostates made tumour detection easier by biopsy.
Overall, men taking finasteride were 30% less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 43% less likely to get a diagnosis of low-grade cancer (slow growing). In addition, survival rates were not changed in patients taking finasteride compared to those not on finasteride.This is very reassuring news to patients taking finasteride for hair loss as these prostate effects are beneficial rather than harmful and will likely result in less unnecessary surgical treatment of prostate enlargement in future. We can reassure patients talking finasteride that there are no harmful long-term effects on the prostate from treating their hair loss.