After a certain age, I have noticed too many of my friends have tangled with my generation's dreaded health issue: prostate cancer. My father developed it late in life, and it was the aggressive kind, so I dutifully go through the drill of exams and blood tests. But I have developed a certain skepticism of aggressive treatment.
That may not bode well for me, but it looks like we're making progress for all you whipper-snappers out there under 50.
The finding comes from a powerful new science called metabolomics. Using these new techniques, scientists discovered that urine levels of an obscure amino acid derivative called sarcosine show whether a man has aggressive or benign prostate cancer.To the scientists' surprise, sarcosine wasn't just a harmless marker.
Benign prostate cancer cells exposed to sarcosine suddenly turn nasty, becoming aggressive and invasive cancer cells. Aggressive prostate cancer cells that can't get sarcosine are tamed, becoming much less invasive.
If confirmed and validated in larger studies, the findings have huge implications for prostate cancer treatment, says study leader Arul M. Chinnaiyan, MD, PhD. Chinnaiyan is professor of pathology and urology at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. [More]
In fact, I have growing hopes most cancer will become a minor threat for my sons' generation.
Apocryphal note: when I spoke in Edmonton last month, the speaker right after lunch was a urologist talking about prostate cancer, and his PowerPoint presentation brought dessert forks clattering down. [Seriously, you don't need to see an actual cancerous prostate to get religion.] Really bad scheduling.
What exactly is a "whipper-snapper" anyway?