December 31, 2019
Diet and Prostate Cancer Risk
Could changes in what a man eats (and doesn’t eat) reduce his risk for prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer to occur in men. It is the second most common cause of cancer in males, just behind skin cancer. As frightening as a diagnosis of prostate cancer can be, the treatment options available today make it one cancer type that many men are able to successfully beat. But the goal, as always, is to prevent cancer before one must think about being diagnosed with or treating it. And there are plenty of helpful ways a man can reduce his prostate cancer risk, including what he eats. Here's what to know about the connection between diet and prostate cancer.
In general, what we eat affects every part of our bodies, and the prostate is no exception. Numerous studies indicate that there are some foods, consumed frequently, that can be detrimental to or may increase a man's prostate cancer risk. Some of these foods include red meat, alcohol, dairy products, and foods that have a high amount of saturated fats.
Red meat, specifically hot dogs, beef, pork, and sausage contains a chemical compound known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These chemicals develop during the red meat cooking process. Researchers suggest that it is these HCAs that are responsible for an increased risk of prostate cancer. Though these types of meat are often a primary source of protein, which is a necessary fuel for the body, there are alternatives. Consider fish, white meats like turkey, chicken, and other poultry, as well as non-meat sources like tofu and beans.
Although many of today's dairy products are the go-to source of calcium for lots of people, large amounts of dairy should not be consumed regularly. The reason is that many dairy products have very high-fat content – which studies have shown to be associated with the progression of prostate cancer cells and lethality from the disease. A good goal is to keep daily intake of whole milk products, fatty cheeses, yogurt, butter, and ice cream to a minimum and eat them in small portions. As an alternative, switch to non-dairy products like soy, oat or almond milk, fat-free yogurts, and low-fat ice creams. There are a variety of non-dairy options at most grocery chains today.
Now that we've outlined which foods may increase the risk of prostate cancer, let's explore those that may reduce the risk. By incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our diets, the risk of developing prostate cancer may be significantly reduced. And there are certain foods to consume that may accomplish this better than others. These include tomatoes, various berries, nuts, coffee (in moderation), and carrots. But truthfully, diets that are rich in whole foods (foods that have not been overly processed or altered beyond their natural state with manufactured ingredients or preservatives), like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, may help to slow the progression or even possibly prevent prostate and other types of cancer.
Proper nutrition can also help ward off the recurrence of disease while boosting the immune system. The key is knowing the right food ratios to consume, which foods to avoid, and which are suitable in moderation. Following a heart-healthy diet is one of the best ways to prevent a variety of health issues, including cancer. If you're looking at this from a meal-by-meal perspective, it means that any given plate of food is going to contain mostly veggies and fruits, and a small helping of lean protein (avoiding red meat when possible). Dessert should be an on-occasion treat (preferably not daily) and tend toward a less sugary and fatty option, like sugar-free almond yogurt topped with fruit and a small drizzle of honey.
As beneficial as a healthy diet is, it cannot replace routine health checkups or screenings for prostate cancer. If you've been putting off that annual physical, make the appointment. You'll be glad you did.