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Chondroitin is a major constituent of cartilage, which provides structure, holds onto water and nutrients, and otherwise helps keep the cartilage healthy. In people who have osteoarthritis, the body loses chondroitin as the cartilage erodes, thus some individuals take chondroitin sulfate supplements to relieve symptoms of the disease and possibly slow its progression. But is chondroitin safe for prostate health?
A few studies have indicated that taking chondroitin sulfate may not be a good idea for men who have prostate cancer. However, other research suggests no increased risk of prostate problems.
The red flag was raised more than 25 year ago with a study in which the concentration of chondroitin sulfate was found to be higher in cancerous prostate tissue as compared with healthy prostate tissue. (De Klerk 1984) Nearly 15 years went by when another study found that higher concentrations of chondroitin sulfate that settled in the tissue surrounding a cancerous prostate tumor was predictive of a higher rate of recurrence of the cancer after surgery. (Ricciardelli 1999)
Since then, more studies have been conducted, with at least one noting a higher concentration of chondroitin in BPH. (Cardoso 2004) While research continues to indicate that chondroitin seems to have a role in predicting relapse of prostate cancer (Sakko 2008), no study has shown that it causes prostate cancer. A study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 2011 reported no increased prostate cancer risk associated with the use of chondroitin. (Brasky 2011)
An alternative natural treatment for osteoarthritis, and one that has shown no association with prostate or any other type of cancer, is glucosamine. Studies show that glucosamine helps preserve the thickness of joint cartilage and thus slows progression of osteoarthritis and may even have a positive role in preventing prostate disease.
Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.
Brasky TM et al. Specialty supplements and prostate cancer risk in the VITamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort. Nutrition and Cancer 2011; 63(4): 573-82
Cardoso LE et al. Increased and localized accumulation of chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans in the hyperplastic human prostate. BJU International 2004 Mar; 93(4): 532-38
De Klerk DP et al. Glycosaminoglycans of human prostatic cancer. Journal of Urology 1984 May; 131(5): 1008-12
Ricciardelli C et al. Elevated levels of peritumoral chondroitin sulfate are predictive of poor prognosis in patients treated by radical prostatectomy for early-stage prostate cancer. Cancer Research 1999 May 15; 59(10): 2324-28
Sakko AJ et al. Immunohistochemical level of unsulfated chondroitin disaccharides in the cancer stroma is an independent predictor of prostate cancer relapse. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 2008 Sep; 17(9): 2488-97