Wouldn't it be great if men could just pop a vitamin and reduce the likelihood they would get prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is, after all, a leading form of cancer in men of all races. According to the Centers for Disease Control's latest statistics, more than 185,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005, and almost 29,000 died from it.
Enter Bayer HealthCare.
The pharmaceutical giant suggested on product labels and in advertisements that its One A Day Men's 50+ Advantage and One A Day Men's Health Formula multivitamins can help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
That was until this month, when the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C., watchdog group, challenged the notion with the threat of a lawsuit.
Consider it the fall of yet another corporate ploy to lure the consumer into purchases with overhyped — if not outright deceptive — claims.
Recall the recent brouhaha over Kellogg's' suggestion that Frosted Mini-Wheats could help children perform better in school (we figured it was just because kids who eat breakfast do better in school than those who don't); and General Mills' longtime promotion of Honey Nut Cheerios as the solution to what ails your heart (like a medicine, no less).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration criticized the big breakfast cereal guys for overstating the benefits of their products.
Now the target is Bayer vitamins.
Specifically, Bayer suggested the selenium found in their multivitamins "may reduce the risk of certain cancers."
"There's no basis for telling American men to take selenium for prostate cancer," said David Schardt, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "They're not allowed to say and, secondly, it's not true."
Schardt points to a seven-year, $118 million study funded by the National Institutes of Health. The study found selenium does not prevent prostate cancer in healthy men.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission to order Bayer to "stop the deceptive claims."
It appears Bayer isn't fighting the issue.
Though the company did push selenium as an aid in cancer prevention, "we decided to no longer utilize this language in our promotion and labeling of our products," said Tricia McKernan, a spokeswoman for Bayer HealthCare.
What can you do to reduce the risk of prostate cancer? Well, here's the Edge from the American Cancer Society:
• Maintain a healthy weight. While being overweight or obese has not been strongly linked to prostate cancer risk, it does seem to raise the risk of getting more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, which could be harder to treat.
• Get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, above usual activities, on five or more days of the week. The effect of exercise on overall prostate cancer risk is not clear, but some studies have suggested that getting more physical activity may reduce a man's risk of advanced prostate cancer.
• Try to eat at least five servings of vegetables (including legumes) and fruits each day. The more brightly colored the produce, the better — it's more likely to be packed with cancer-fighting, heart-healthy nutrients.
• Aim for at least three servings of whole grains each day. Eat oatmeal at breakfast, choose whole wheat bread at lunch, or use brown rice instead of white at dinner.
• Cut back on red meats, especially high-fat or processed meats — they have been linked to an increased risk.
Ivan Penn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2332.