Q: Do chondroitin sulfate supplements, often taken with glucosamine for arthritis, increase the risk of prostate cancer?
A: Elevated levels of chondroitin sulfate in the body have been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, but there’s no evidence that supplements are a problem.
Chondroitin sulfate is produced naturally by the body, where it’s involved in cell structure and growth and other basic functions. It’s also an important structural component of cartilage.
Some studies have found a correlation between chondroitin levels in prostate cells and cancer progression. But it’s not clear whether the compound plays a role in cancer development or whether rising levels are a result of the cancer.
Chondroitin levels in cells have similarly been linked to risk of prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH), which causes urinary symptoms.
There isn’t much research on chondroitin supplements and prostate cancer. A study in Nutrition and Cancer in 2011 looked at a variety of supplements, including chondroitin, and didn’t find increased risk of prostate cancer for any of them.
Still, if you have or had prostate cancer, you probably shouldn’t take chondroitin supplements, to be on the safe side. In fact, there’s no reason for anyone to take chondroitin, since most good studies have not found that it helps against arthritis, even when taken with glucosamine.