Locals are taking ?three for the team'

By Michael Davis

By taking a daily regimen of three pills, 65-year-old McDonough resident Harold Schild may be helping to spare future generations from prostate cancer.

As part of a cancer-research study with thousands of participants from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, Schild says he's glad to participate.

"I realize that at this time in my life, I need to be watchful of things like prostate cancer," said Schild. "I'm a prime candidate."

Schild first heard about the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) two years ago when he went to one of Henry Medical Center's free prostate cancer screenings.

"They told me it was cranking up and they were looking for volunteers," he said.

SELECT is designed to determine whether vitamin E and the mineral selenium can be effective in preventing cancer, said Jackie Ware, an oncology research nurse at Southern Regional Medical Center in charge of Schild's study-group.

The 12-year study that started in the summer of 2001 and sponsored by the Southwest Oncology Group currently has 26,225 volunteers age 50 and older and researchers are still seeking more.

SRMC, along with seven other Atlanta area hospitals, is participating as part of the Atlanta Regional Community Clinical Oncology Program.

"This is really one of the few large studies that look at vitamins and minerals in preventing cancer," said Ware. Researchers are hoping to get have over 32,000 volunteers by the end of the trial period.

"What I like about the study is that there is very little risk involved. We are using vitamins and minerals that are very safe to take," said Ware.

Schild said that is why he got involved in the study. "There is no degree of difficulty," he said.

With only two trips a year to SRMC to pick up the study supplements and answer questions about his general health, Schild said it "should be helpful to somebody somewhere along the line."

The SELECT study builds on other studies that have shown evidence that vitamin E and selenium reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

A study in 1996 of the effects of selenium on incidents of nonmelanoma skin cancer showed that while the mineral didn't reduce skin cancer rates, "it reduced prostate cancer rates by 60 percent," said Ware.

A different study of 29,000 smokers in Finland showed in 1998 that while vitamin E did not reduce lung cancer rates, it reduced prostate cancer rates in men by 32 percent.

The American Cancer Society predicts that 220,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003 and reports that it is the second leading cause of cancer death in men.

Harold Schild's wife Susan said she was a big factor in getting her husband to get yearly prostate exams.

"The wives make their husbands go to the screenings. I don't think these guys would go unless their wives made them," she said.

"Whenever you go to the screenings, all these wives are just sitting there waiting for their husbands."

The ACS recommends men in high-risk groups, such as African-American men or those with a family history of prostate cancer, begin yearly digital rectal exams and PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood tests at age 45. The ACS recommends all other men start by age 50.