Saw palmetto is a plant-derived compound from a family of drugs called the phytoestrogens.
So, in other words, these are plant extracts that look very much to the body like the female hormone estrogen. It’s a drug that is very useful in decreasing prostate size and thereby improving urinary symptoms. It’s freely available in health food shops.
The problem with saw palmetto, though, is because of estrogenic effects; it can cause, over a long period of time, feminization of patients. But more worryingly, it can also artificially lower the PSA. And this is the test that we use to screen men for prostate cancer.
If it is necessary to take saw palmetto in order to help your urinary symptoms, then it’s really important if you’re a patient undergoing treatment to tell your urologist or oncologist. This is because they need to know that your PSA is being artificially lowered so they can then adjust for that in terms of monitoring your prostate cancer.