Zinc, an important element in human metabolism, is present in different concentrations in several organs. Importantly, zinc has been shown to modify prostatic androgen metabolism, and various studies have investigated the relationship between serum zinc concentration and prostatic disease. Here, researchers reviewing published data suggest that zinc concentration can be a diagnostic and screening tool for prostatic diseases, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer.
Zinc content varies from organ to organ, but is highest in the prostate — about 100 times greater than in plasma. These high levels inhibit the transformation of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, maintaining the organ’s normal physiological function and tissue structure. It is, therefore, of interest to study of zinc in the context of prostatic disease, and to study its possible use as a tool for disease diagnosis and screening. But research findings on this have been rather contradictory.
Researchers undertook a systematic review of published studies in order ” to evaluate the correlation between serum zinc concentration and prostate disease to obtain valuable insight into the diagnosis and treatment of prostatic disease.”
They found 14 studies evaluating this correlation, 10 of which focused specifically on prostate cancer. Seven of them reported finding the zinc concentration in prostate cancer patients to be significantly lower than that observed in healthy people serving as controls. Two studies showed a non-significant difference, and one reported that the zinc concentration of prostate cancer patients was significantly higher than that of controls.
Five studies looked at serum zinc concentration in BPH patients. Three of these reported that the zinc concentration of BPH patients was significant higher than that found in healthy controls, while two reported finding the opposite relationship.
In this analysis, researchers found that the zinc concentration of prostate cancer patients was significant lower than that of normal controls, while the zinc concentration of BPH patients was significantly higher.
Another seven studies compared serum zinc concentrations between prostate cancer and BPH patients. While five reported the concentration in prostate cancer patients to be significantly lower than in BPH patients, one study reported the opposite. Here, researchers found significantly lower serum zinc concentrations in prostate cancer patients compared to BPH patients.
“The present study showed that serum zinc concentration was significantly lower in prostate cancer patients than in normal controls. Additionally, serum zinc concentration was significantly higher in BPH patients than in prostate cancer patients and normal controls,” they concluded. “Serum zinc concentration may be used as a tool for the diagnosis and screening of prostate disease.”
But, they advised, “further studies with well-designed larger sample” groups of patients “are needed in this field to further clarify the correlation between serum zinc concentration and prostate disease.”