Herald JournalHerald Journal, Oct. 6, 2003

Local man participates in prostate cancer study

By Julie Yurek

Larry Russell is hoping to find a prevention method to ward off prostate cancer.

Russell, 57, does not have the cancer, although it does run in his wife Barbara's family, he said.

The American Cancer Society suggests that at-risk men maintain a diet low in fatty red meats, and high in grains, vegetables, and fruits, specifically tomatoes, grapefruits, and watermelons, which are rich in lycopenes.

He is participating in a study through Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia to determine if lycopenes can help prevent damage to DNA and lower the risk of developing prostate cancer.

He is one of thousands of men throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico who are involved in the study, which started in 2000, according to Mary Sladek, registered nurse at Ridgeview.

Russell has been in the study about six months.

The ultimate goal is to have 32,000 men participate. Sladek is not sure where the current number stands, but there is one year left for men to join the study, she said.

The study is called the selenium and vitamin E cancer prevention trial (SELECT). It will determine whether selenium and vitamin E, taken separately or together, can prevent prostate cancer, according to Ridgeview.

Men 55 years old and older and African-American men 50 or older can participate in the SELECT study.

"The only way to determine the effects of selenium and vitamin E is to do a large 'blind' or random survey," Sladek said.

Russell read about the study in a Ridgeview newsletter and wanted to get involved, he said.

"I am a retired veterinarian and am currently a nutritional consultant, so I have been exposed to the benefits of certain vitamins. I wanted to be a part of this particular study in hopes of finding out whether vitamin E helps fight prostate cancer," Russell said.

He may be involved in the study for seven to 12 years, he said, depending on what kind of results start coming in.

"If the study shows something positive, they'll end the study sooner," he said.

If side effects begin to surface, the study will end sooner, Sladek said.

Any positive or negative feedback will affect the length of study, but it will probably be at least seven years, she said.

The length of the study does not bother him, he said.

Russell had to pass a semi-physical, fill our a questionnaire, and not have any existing medical conditions in order to take part in the study. He did have high blood pressure at one of his appointments, but at the next one it was down, he said.

High blood pressure would have disqualified him. Also, men must not have had cancer within five years, except skin cancer, Sladek said. "In general, they should be in good health."

Russell takes two tablets once a day, a vitamin E tablet and a selenium tablet. He could, however, be taking the placebo instead of the real tablets. Either way, this is not important to him, since he just wants to help out, he said.

"My hope is that they find something positive about vitamin E for us men or a combination with selenium that will help prevent prostate cancer," Russell said.

"It definitely is worth it being involved in studies like this so we can help our younger generations find the answers to some of the cures of the medical problems we have out there."

Russell does not have to do any paper work or documentation on a regular basis. He talks with Sladek every six months and once a year he must go to Ridgeview for a checkup, Sladek said.

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men in the United States. There will be an estimated 221,000 new cases diagnosed and 29,000 deaths from the disease in the US this year. All men are at risk, but those who are 55 or older, African-American, or have a father or brother with prostate cancer are more at risk, according to Ridgeview.

Any men who are interested in participating in the study may contact Sladek at (952) 442-2191 ext. 5663.

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