Do men’s toenails contain clues about prostate cancer prevention?

Dr Trevor Dummer, UBC
Dr Dummer part of team that receives research funding

Monday, January 29, 2018

Funded by Prostate Cancer Canada (PCC), Dr. Anil Adisesh at Dalhousie University and Dr. Trevor Dummer at the Centre of Excellence in Cancer Prevention, within the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, will lead a team analyzing the world’s largest collection of toenails, all from Atlantic Canadians, to measure individual exposures to toxic metals that are known carcinogens and may cause prostate cancer. This research is part of a wider strategy by PCC to generate new and practical knowledge in the poorly understood area of prostate cancer prevention.

Within their collection of over 30,000 toenail samples, Drs. Adisesh and Dummer identified 149 prostate cancer patients with their team, using detailed health and lifestyle questionnaires that accompanied the initial sample collection. They are also following up new cases of prostate cancer in the participants. Using toenail samples of men with prostate cancer and identifying matching participants without cancer, the presence and concentrations of toxic metals (arsenic, cadmium, etc.) will be compared. The toenails were collected through the Atlantic PATH project.

“This will tell us whether these toxic metal concentrations are a risk factor for the development of prostate cancer,” explained Dr. Adisesh. “The results will also inform decisions on suitable levels of environmental exposures to these metals in the future, such as drinking water, food, and soil, as well as indicate the degree of risk for groups of people or individuals.”

While much progress has been made to further reduce the devastating effects of prostate cancer, very little is known about how or whether we can prevent the disease. Are there modifiable risk factors such as exposure to certain environments that increase the likelihood of developing and the severity of prostate cancer?  What role do lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise play in preventing prostate cancer? Can men at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer such as those with a family history of the disease take steps to decrease their risk? 

“As a global leader in prostate cancer research, we have made it a top priority to start answering these and other questions,” said PCC’s vice-president of Research, Health Promotion and Survivorship, Dr. Stuart Edmonds. “If there are ways for men to decrease their odds of getting prostate cancer, it is of the utmost importance that we identify what they are and validate them in order to empower men with evidence-based information that will help them make lifestyle choices with the potential to stop prostate cancer before it starts.”

With additional funding being provided by the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation, Drs. Adisesh and Dummer will receive $180,000 over the 2 year duration of their project.

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About Prostate Cancer Canada
Prostate Cancer Canada is the leading national foundation dedicated to the elimination of the most common cancer in men through research, advocacy, education, support and awareness. As one of the largest investors in prostate cancer research in Canada, Prostate Cancer Canada is committed to continuous discovery in the areas of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and support.

Prostate Cancer Canada is proud to have been named one of Canada’s top 3 health charities for efficiency and financial transparency in the Financial Post’s 2017 Charities of the Year list. 

For more information:
Alex Walls
University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health
604 822 0530
alex.walls@ubc.ca

Adam Miller
Prostate Cancer Canada
416-441-2131 ext. 235
adam.miller@prostatecancer.ca