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More study found that that wasn't the case. It was just that the tumors were more easy to detect among men taking the drug because it helped reduce prostate size.
The new advice to consider finasteride "is long overdue," said Dr. Eric Klein, prostate cancer chief at the Cleveland Clinic. When men are given a full picture of the drug's effects, "it's not a tough sell," he said.
Finasteride has been linked to lower sexual desire and difficulty having an erection. However, in a study of older men, those were problems for most who weren't taking the drug as well. Finasteride also gave benefits: fewer urinary problems and less incontinence.
"The overall quality of life was identical," and most side effects go away after a few weeks of use, Kramer said.
Three of the 15 guideline writers have consulted for Merck & Co., which makes Proscar, or GlaxoSmithKline PLC, which makes Avodart.
The advice is "aimed at people like me 10 years ago," said Stewart Justman, a 60-year-old literature professor at University of Montana. He is in his third battle with prostate cancer and he represented patients on the guidelines panel.
"If I had heard there was a possibility of preventing the disease, it certainly would have captured my interest," he said. But the potential risk of aggressive tumors can't be ruled out, so doctors owe men a frank talk, he said.
Ernest Bynum, a 68-year-old Cleveland man, started taking Proscar six years ago. A PSA test was a little high and he was having urinary problems. When he heard the drug might prevent cancer, it sealed his decision.
"If it's a possibility of giving me a longer life, I want that," he said.
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