Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate. The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland in males that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. Many prostate cancers grow slowly and are confined to the prostate gland, where they may not cause serious harm. However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.
Prostate cancer that’s detected early — when it’s still confined to the prostate gland — has the best chance for successful treatment.
Prostate cancer screening is likely to subject many men to unnecessary and often painful tests. And, recent studies have shown that we are not can’t differentiate the tumors that are likely to spread and kill from those that will remain contained within the prostate. The result is that many who are treated for early prostate cancer may suffer unpleasant side effects for little or no benefit. Until medical research can devise better screening techniques our focus should be on strategies for preventing prostate cancer.
The cause of prostate cancer remains unknown but is likely to be a complex mix of multiple factors including genetics, race, diet, lifestyle and chemical exposures. Prostate cancer becomes more common with age. It is very rare in men under 45 years old. Autopsy studies have found cancer in the prostate in about 30% of men in their 50’s and more than 80% of men in their 70’s.
Family history also matters. If a parent or sibling had prostate cancer your risk is twice as high. If two close relatives had prostate cancer your risk is increased 5-fold. Prostate cancer is also more common in african americans than in whites or hispanics.
While we can’t change our genes or avoid getting older, there are some things we can do with lifestyle and nutritional supplements that may help to lower the risk of prostate cancer:
1. Lower DHT Levels– Prostate cells grow in response to the hormone Dihydro-testosterone. Production of this hormone from testosterone can be blocked with prescription medications, such as Finasteride or Dutasteride, or with the over-the-counter supplement Saw Palmetto. Studies of the prescription medications have shown approximately a 25% decrease in the overall incidence of prostate cancer in men taking the medication. However, the cancers that did occur were more likely to be a more aggressive form of the disease. Lowering DHT levels may also have some mild effects on sex drive and performance. Still, lowering DHT is the most effective means for lowering the overall number of prostate cancers and has been recommended by the American Urological Association and the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
2. Eat Your Cruciferous Veggies– There are good reasons why your mother wanted you to eat your broccoli. Men who ate one of the cruciferous vegetables, which also includes cauliflower and kale, more than once a week were 40% less likely to develop prostate cancer. This may be related to a chemical, indole-3-carbinol, which has effects on hormone metabolism. This same chemical has been linked to lower risk of breast cancer.
3. Eat Tomato Products – Diets high in tomato products have been linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. This may be related to the anti-oxidant lycopene although this is still uncertain. Animal studies have found a reduction in prostate cancer in animals fed tomato paste but not those given just lycopene. Canned or processed tomato products may be more effective than fresh tomatoes from the grocery store. Processed tomatoes are allowed to fully ripen on the vine and are quickly preserved once they are picked. Store tomatoes are usually picked green and take several days to get from field to table. Cooking the processed tomatoes and eating them with oil or fat may also increase the absorption of lycopene and related compounds. Therefore, pizza may be an excellent anti-cancer food.
4. Have Frequent Sex– Studies have shown that men who ejaculate more frequently may have a lower risk of prostate cancer. Enough said.
5. Supplement Your Vitamin D – Vitamin D deficiency is increasingly linked to numerous health problems including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, dementia, bone loss and several cancers. As much as 75% of the US population may be Vitamin D deficient. Take 1000-2000 iu of Vitamin D per day
6. Increase Your Omega 3 – Fish Oils that are high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have numerous health benefits. Omega-3 oils can reduce inflammation and lower the risk of several types of cancer. In some studies, diets high in Omega-3 oils resulted in as much as a 63% reduction in the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. To ensure a consistent intake of Omega-3 take a high quality 1000 mg Fish Oil capsule each day.
7. Take a Daily Aspirin – Aspirin has been shown to reduce the risk of colon, breast and prostate cancer. The drawback is that the risk of prostate cancer in any given year may be less than the risk of potentially dangerous side effects from the aspirin including intestinal bleeding and hemorrhagic strokes. Taking 325 mg per day of Aspirin may reduce prostate cancer risk but we would reserve this one for only those patients at very high risk such as those with a strong family history.
8. Avoid Certain Supplements – Some supplements may increase your risk. Vitamin E and Selenium are often touted as lowering prostate risk. However, the data on this is contradictory. The largest study, in 2008, found no benefit and some studies have even found that high levels of Selenium worsen prostate cancer once it has already spread. Folic Acid supplements have been linked to an increase in the risk of prostate cancer. Men who took 1 mg of Folic Acid daily were found to have three times the risk of prostate cancer. On the contrary, diets that are high in natural sources of Folate (which is handled slightly differently by the body than Folic Acid supplements) were found to reduce prostate cancer.
9. Eat A Healthy diet – Increased prostate cancer risk has been associated with diets that are high in saturated fats, particularly those from red meats. Limiting red meat consumption, maintaining a high intake of fruits and vegetables and limiting alcohol intake to moderate amounts have all been associated with lower prostate risk.
10. Get Rid of Belly Fat– Visceral fat, the fat inside the abdomen, is metabolically evil. It produces inflammatory chemicals and alters hormone ratios in ways that increase the risk of many types of cancer, including prostate cancer. Even if you don’t lower your total weight, shifting fat from visceral belly fat to much less dangerous subcutaneous fat can lower your health risks. Following a Low Glycemic Index diet and maintaining high levels of physical activity can reduce your visceral fat.