A hormone-suppressing therapy typically used to treat prostate cancer can increase the likelihood of individuals to develop depression, a new study says.

Researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Massachusetts examined data collected from more than 78,000 men in the United States who were being given treatment for early stage prostate cancer.

They discovered that about 7 percent of patients who were treated using testosterone-suppressing therapy went on to develop clinical depression within the next few years. About 5 percent of those who were not given the treatment also developed the mental condition later in life.

Dr. Paul Nguyen, head of prostate brachytherapy at BWH and one of the senior investigators involved in the study, explained that while their findings do not prove for certain that the hormone-suppressing treatment was the one to blame for the patients' developing depression, they do provide strong evidence that this could be the case.

He said that they took into consideration the different factors that could impact the patients' likelihood to develop clinical depression, such as their age, educational background and the severity of their prostate cancer. They still found a link between the hormone treatment and the mental condition.

Nguyen added that the risk of developing depression among the individuals they observed appeared to increase the longer they were subjected to testosterone-suppressing therapy.

The results of the study indicated that 6 percent of patients who received hormone therapy for six months or less continued to develop depression three years after they were diagnosed with prostate cancer. This number increased to about 8 percent among those who underwent the treatment for at least a year.

Nguyen further said their work is discovering more and more side effects associated with hormone treatment. However, the therapy is still viewed by some, especially those diagnosed with severe diseases, to be a potential life saver.

"You have to know what the potential upside is," Nguyen pointed out. "For some guys it will still be worth it, but for some not."

The findings of the Brigham and Women's Hospital study are featured in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Photo: Artis Rams | Flickr 

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