A new study in the Lancet has found that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) patches, usually given to treat symptoms of the menopause in women, also lower testosterone levels in men with prostate cancer. Testosterone
is known to fuel prostate cancer growth. Currently men with prostate cancer have injections with a LHRH agonist such as Zoladex, to reduce their levels of testosterone.

The problem with the injectable version is that it causes potential serious side effects such as osteoporosis, bone fractures and diabetes. It also causes increases in cholesterol and can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease or stroke. In the past men were given oestrogen pills to block testosterone production, but these also had a high risk of stroke and blood clots.

The study seems to show that these side effects are less likely when using patches, possibly because the drugs get absorbed directly into the blood stream, and therefore bypasses the liver .This could be good news for men
suffering with prostate cancer, as we may be able to use these patches in the future for men, without significantly increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke.

Further studies will now be undertaken to see if the results can be replicated, and hopefully this could lead to easier treatment, with less side effects, for men suffering with prostate cancer, either by using an oestrogen patch or a gel.