Mitigating the Risk of Prostate Cancer
What is Prostate Cancer?
The prostate is a male gland located below the bladder and is responsible for some of the fluid in semen. Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the gland grow out of control. Prostate cancers grow at different rates and in some men, prostate cancer will grow aggressively, requiring immediate treatment. In other men, it can grow quite slowly and may not ever be life threatening.
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer risk for men in the United States, with 1 in 9 men being diagnosed. Prostate cancer is the second deadliest cancer for men in this country, trailing lung cancer.
Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer
The primary risk factor for prostate cancer is age. The older men get, the more likely they are to develop prostate cancer. Other major risk factors are race, geography and family history. In the United States, the lowest to highest rates of prostate cancer by racial descent are Asian/Pacific Islander, Indigenous, Latin American, European and African. The regions with the highest incidence of prostate cancer are North America, the Caribbean, Western, Northern and Southern Europe, Australia, South Africa, and South America. The regions with the lowest incidence of prostate cancer are Africa excluding South Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, Asia and Central America. Men are at a higher level of risk of developing prostate cancer if their blood relatives have had prostate cancer. Obesity is also a risk factor for prostate cancer.
Reducing Your Risk of Prostate Cancer
Studies have shown that there are a variety of diet and lifestyle habits that can reduce the risk of prostate cancer. While some of these studies may not be conclusive, consider the differences in racial vs. geographical risks of getting prostate cancer. In the U.S., Black men have the highest risk of prostate cancer, however, men in Africa, excluding South Africa, have the lowest incidence of prostate cancer. The rates of prostate cancer are very low in Asia but when Asian men moved to the U.S., the rate of prostate cancer increases. Habits common to a geographic location such as diet and exercise could have an impact which might override the racial influence.
Reduce Fat Consumption, Eat More Fruits & Vegetables, and Exercise - Obesity is a risk factor for aggressive prostate cancer. Obesity interferes with Prostate-Specific Androgen (PSA) test results and digital rectal exams, making it more difficult to catch the disease early. Green vegetables also help break down cancer causing carcinogens. Exercise reduces inflammation, improves the immune function, fights the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle and helps maintain a healthy weight. It is recommended to get about 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
Food and Drink Specific Recommendations
o Avoid charred meat. Frying or grilling meats at high temperatures may produce a chemical that leads to cancer.
o Minimize dairy which is often high in fat.
o Try to eat more food with isoflavones such as soybeans (tofu), chickpeas/garbanzo beans (hummus), lentils, alfalfa sprouts and peanuts.
o Consuming tomatoes and other red produce lowers the risk of prostate cancer. This is likely due to the high concentrations of lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant. Lycopene accumulates as a fruit or vegetable is ripening. Therefore, it’s best to buy vine ripened, fresh and red produce whenever possible.
o Drink green tea. In a University of Virginia study, consumption of green tea extract significantly reduced the incidence of prostate cancer in men with a precancerous condition known as intraepithelial neoplasia. However, green tea extracts have been linked to liver damage. Therefore, drinking the tea is recommended over taking extracts.
o Drink more coffee. Drinking 4-5 cups of coffee per day lowers the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. However, the Mayo Clinic recommends drinking less than 5 cups of coffee per day due to other potential health consequences. So don’t overdo it. Also notable is that boiled coffee is better than paper filtered coffee because the cancer fighting chemicals tend to get trapped in the coffee filter. Perhaps a French Press might be a good alternative?
Quit Smoking - This isn’t the first time you’ve heard this. Also, if you drink, do so in moderation. Red wine has antioxidants that could be helpful.
Increase Your Vitamin D - Sun is the best source of vitamin D and ten minutes a day, without sunscreen is recommended. If you have trouble getting outside, wild salmon, canned tuna, and whole eggs are good sources of vitamin D. Supplements can also be helpful.
Stay Sexually Active – Men who have a high frequency of ejaculation (5-7 times/week) are up to 66% less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Get Screened – Getting regular PSA tests and digital rectal exams are important in catching prostate cancer early, when it’s more easily treated. Prostate cancer symptoms (straining to pass urine, leaking urine, bloody urine or bone pain) are more likely when the disease is advanced.
If you have a family history of prostate cancer, integrating a healthy lifestyle with some or all of these recommendations, along with regular screening could make a difference in avoiding aggressive prostate cancer.