Eat Right to Prevent Prostate Cancer
A recent review of studies conducted between 1965 and 2008 regarding diet and prostate cancer risk found some consistent patterns: consuming more fruits and vegetables, fewer calories, and less fat, meat, dairy products, and calcium seems to protect against it. Several risk factors have been identified for this common disease:
- Ethnicity: Black men have the highest risk, while Asian men and Native Americans have the lowest.
- Age: 60% of all cases are diagnosed in men over 70 years old.
- Genetics: Having a first-degree relative with prostate cancer more than doubles the risk.
- Environmental factors, such as diet: Asian men who immigrate to the US develop similar prostate cancer risk as American men within two generations, suggesting that other factors in the Western diet, lifestyle, or environment may influence risk more than race.
The review investigated the contribution of several dietary factors to the risk of developing prostate cancer. Following are the highlights of the findings which were published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.
Factors that seem to decrease prostate cancer risk
- Increased consumption of plant-based foods, especially tomatoes (cooked tomato products were more protective than fresh) and other lycopene-containing foods (like watermelon), and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts.
- Increased consumption of soy, vitamin E, and selenium. Tofu, tempeh, and edamame are great ways to get your soy. Whole food sources of vitamin E and selenium are best. Brazil nuts are particularly rich in selenium, and almonds are high in vitamin E. Enjoy nuts raw or roast them lightly at home to preserve their delicate nutrients.
Factors that seem to increase prostate cancer risk
- Meat, especially when grilled or processed (as in lunchmeats and hot dogs), and eaten five or more times per week.
- Dairy, even if it’s low fat.
- Calcium, when taken in excess of 1.5 grams per day.
- Fat, especially animal fats and saturated fats.
No association was found between prostate cancer risk and consumption of fish or omega-3 fats, folic acid, or green tea.
“The dietary recommendations for patients diagnosed with prostate cancer are similar to those for reducing prostate cancer risk,” commented the study’s authors.
While this review helps clear some of the confusion over the best diet to prevent prostate cancer, it should be noted that many of the studies reviewed are preliminary, and therefore not definitive.
(J Hum Nutr Diet 2009; doi:10.1111/j.1365–277)
August 13, 2009
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, and now sees patients in East Greenwich and Wakefield. Inspired by her passion for healthful eating and her own young daughters, Dr. Beauchamp is currently writing a book about optimizing children’s health through better nutrition.
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