The effects of 5α-reductase inhibitors on the natural history, detection and grading of prostate cancer: Current state of knowledge

Gerald Andriole, David Bostwick, Francisco Civantos, Jonathan Epstein, M. Scott Lucia, John McConnell, Claus Roehrborn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations


Purpose: The Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT) showed that the 5α-reductase inhibitor (5ARI) finasteride significantly decreased the 7-year period prevalence of prostate cancer vs placebo. However, Gleason score 7-10 tumors were significantly more common in the finasteride vs the placebo group. We considered data on the effects of 5ARIs on prostate cancer natural history and detection. Materials and Methods: A detailed review was performed of the literature identified from the MEDLINE database examining the effects of 5ARIs on prostate cancer prevalence and tumor histopathology. Results: In PCPT there were fewer biopsies performed for cause in the finasteride vs the placebo group and the proportion of high grade tumors in the treatment groups did not diverge with time. Given that finasteride has an effect on prostate specific antigen and prostate volume, which are key factors in triggering prostate biopsies, they may be significant confounders of Gleason score results. Prostate shrinkage in the finasteride treated group may minimize biopsy sampling error. Furthermore, histological studies have shown that 5ARIs have a significant effect on prostate architecture, which can make the interpretation of prostate specimens in men treated with 5ARIs difficult. Further evaluation of PCPT findings will help determine the true nature of these observations. Conclusions: 5ARIs decrease the risk of prostate cancer but also alter the detection of disease through effects on prostate specific antigen, and prostate volume and histology. The weight of evidence suggests an artifactual effect of finasteride on Gleason grading in the PCPT. The role of 5ARIs for prostate cancer chemoprevention needs further examination before it can be considered for wide recommendation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2098-2104
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005



  • Chemoprevention
  • Cholestenone 5 alpha-reductase
  • Prostate
  • Prostatic neoplasms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology

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