«What can I eat to reduce my risk of developing prostate cancer?» This is one of the most common questions physicians hear from men concerned about prostate health. Undoubtedly, many hope that their doctor will rattle off a list of foods guaranteed to shield them from disease. Although some foods have been linked with reduced risk of prostate cancer, proof that they really work is lacking, at least for now.
Aim for a healthy eating pattern
Instead of focusing on specific foods, dietitians, physicians, and researchers tout an overall pattern of healthy eating — and healthy eating is easier than you might think. In a nutshell, here’s what experts recommend:
- Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Go for those with deep, bright color.
- Choose whole-grain bread instead of white bread and choose whole-grain pasta and cereals.
- Limit your consumption of red meat, including beef, pork, lamb, and goat, and processed meats, such as bologna and hot dogs. Fish, skinless poultry, beans, and eggs are healthier sources of protein.
- Choose healthful fats, such as olive oil, nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), and avocados. Limit saturated fats from dairy and other animal products. Avoid partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats), which are in many fast foods and packaged foods.
- Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks, such as sodas and many fruit juices. Eat sweets as an occasional treat.
- Cut down on salt. Choose foods low in sodium by reading and comparing food labels. Limit the use of canned, processed, and frozen foods.
- Watch portion sizes. Eat slowly and stop eating when you are full.
Stay active to support prostate health
In addition to eating a healthy diet, you should stay active. Regular exercise pares down your risk of developing some deadly problems, including heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer. And although relatively few studies have directly assessed the impact of exercise on prostate health, those that have been done have concluded, for the most part, that exercise is beneficial. For example:
- Based on questionnaires completed by more than 30,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, researchers found an inverse relationship between physical activity and BPH symptoms. Simply put, men who were more physically active were less likely to suffer from BPH. Even low- to moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking regularly at a moderate pace, yielded benefits.
- Using data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, researchers also examined the relationship between erectile dysfunction (ED) and exercise. They found that men who ran for an hour and a half or did three hours of rigorous outdoor work per week were 20% less likely to develop ED than those who didn’t exercise at all. More physical activity conferred a greater benefit. Interestingly, regardless of the level of exercise, men who were overweight or obese had a greater risk of ED than men with an ideal body mass index, or BMI.
- Italian researchers randomly assigned 231 sedentary men with chronic prostatitis to one of two exercise programs for 18 weeks: aerobic exercise, which included brisk walking, or nonaerobic exercise, which included leg lifts, sit-ups, and stretching. Each group exercised three times a week. At the end of the trial, men in both groups felt better, but those in the aerobic exercise group experienced significantly less discomfort, anxiety and depression, and improved quality of life
Get more information and the latest news about prostate health at www.HarvardProstateKnowledge.org. Image: jacoblund/Getty Images As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. By: Paul Turek, MD
Posted on: 02 Sep 2014 Name a gland in the male body that is essential for fertility but not for erections, and just happens to enlarge, rather than shrink, with age. That’s right, the prostate.
Go Baby Go
Because of the prostate, as men age, they are more likely to look at travel experiences as a series of restroom stops. Navigating to the grocery store, the gas station or to a friend’s house for poker incorporates all nearby restrooms. Although not the end of the world, it may be the end of long road trips. Just like reading glasses, it’s another reminder that things aren’t what they were when we were younger. The prostate is about the size of a walnut and sits at the base of the penis. It wraps around the urethra (the tube that urine comes from). A fancy term for its enlargement with age is benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). For reasons still unclear, the prostate continues to grow bigger as a man gets older and this the cause of the urination issues that occur in half of all men by age 60and in almost all men by age 80. Why couldn’t the penis enlarge and the prostate shrink? Great question!
Bigger But Not Better
Prostatic enlargement is pretty much inevitable. The urinary symptoms associated with it are treated with pills called alpha-blockers, which essentially enlarge the urethral channel by relaxing the muscle fibers within it. You can start with herbals like that of the woody shrub saw palmetto, pumpkin seeds (zinc), stinging nettle extract, pygeum, rye grass or beta-sitosterol extract and cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli) but in randomized trials herbals take a distant second place to alpha blockers. Other drugs called 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors actually shrink the gland by 1/3 of its size and can also help urination. If these pills don’t keep you peeing straight and strong, there are also various indescribable procedures that can remove the excess prostatic tissue. And yes, some of them involve lasers, which you just gotta love.The prostate can also become inflamed, termed prostatitis, which occurs in about 10% of men at least once during their lives. This diagnosis is not subtle as most men with prostatitis pee firewater several times an hour. Ways to avoid this include good hydration, regular, timed voiding and treating BPH when it occurs.
The «C» in Prostate
The last issue with the prostate is no small one: it harbors the most common solid cancer in men. Fortunately, despite the fact that prostate cancer only rarely causes symptoms, most cases are caught early and cure rates are extremely high. The other good thing is that prostate cancer is much more slow-growing than other cancers, doubling in size every 2-3 years instead of every 4-6 months. As such, a man is 8-10 times more likely to die of heart disease than prostate cancer. To further complicate things, prostate cancer increases with a man’s age. That means many men have it but never know it, which is fine as long as something else gets you first. Although genetics plays a role in the development of prostate cancer, there are also things you can do to prevent it. Following a heart-healthy, low animal fat, low carbohydrate diet is key to cancer prevention, as are exercise, weight management and stress reduction. Enjoy fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants to protect your body from cancer-causing oxidants. Soy and green tea may be especially good for the prostate. Eat more fish, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. As obesity has been linked to prostate cancer, consider limiting sugar intake too. Finally, there is good data to suggest that a certain class of pills used to slow BPH (5-alpha reductase inhibitors) can reduce the occurrence of low-grade prostate cancer by 25%. Now that’s a pill that men might want to swallow! So, for various reasons, don’t ignore the prostate. Attend to it before it disrupts the flow of your daily life. And that means taking great care of the body around it. In addition, the American Urological Association recommends screening for prostate cancer between the ages of 55 to 70 years. Compared to a root canal, this screening is much easier, involving a quick rectal exam and blood testing for PSA. Take it from a urologist: happy prostate, happy life! Blog content contributed by The Turek Clinic
Urology Health extra
Read the latest issue of Urology Health extra, the Urology Care Foundations patient-focused magazine. While many people may wonder how to prevent prostate cancer, there’s no one way to avoid the disease. Staying healthy as you age, or working to reverse existing health problems, can lower your risk. However, like all cancers, prostate cancer has certain risk factors that cannot be avoided.
Things You Can’t Change: Age, Race and Genes
Prostate cancer is primarily a “disease of aging.” As you get older, your chances of developing prostate cancer increase. Race and genetics also play a significant role. If you are African American, your chances of developing prostate cancer are double those of white American men. If your father, brother or multiple blood relatives had prostate cancer, you are more likely to get it, too. Preventing prostate cancer might be difficult if you have these risk factors, but screening early and often can help ensure that if you do get cancer, it’s diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
Things You Can Change: Diet and Lifestyle
Men in western countries have much higher rates of prostate cancer than men in Asia. While no one can definitively explain this phenomenon, experts suspect differences in eastern and western diets are to blame. Poor eating habits and diets that heavily rely on fats and animal proteins can cause DNA damage and lead to cancer. Even men who are already at greater risk due to age, race or genetics can reduce their chances of developing prostate cancer by adopting healthy diets and lifestyles.
Improve Your Diet
Researchers don’t completely understand the relationship between diet and prostate cancer prevention, but studies suggest that certain eating habits may help.
- Reduce fat intake. Eat less trans fats and saturated fats. Focus on healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids from nuts, seeds and fish.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Incorporate a wide variety of produce, including plenty of leafy greens. The antioxidant lycopene, which is plentiful in cooked or processed tomatoes, has been shown in some studies to slow the growth of prostate cancer cells. Cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli and cauliflower) contain a compound called sulforaphane that may protect against cancer.
- Add green tea and soy. Clinical trials have suggested that soy may lower PSA levels, and that green tea may help men who are at high risk for prostate cancer lower their risk.
- Avoid charred meat. Charred meat, from frying or grilling at high temperatures, may produce a chemical compound that leads to cancer.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity can be a risk factor for developing more aggressive prostate cancer. In general, losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight as you age can help reduce your risk of cancer and many other health problems.
Get Regular Exercise
In addition to helping you achieve a healthy weight, exercise can reduce inflammation, improve immune function and fight some of the negative health effects of a sedentary lifestyle—all of which can help prevent cancer.
Stop Smoking and Drink Less
Quitting smoking can improve your health in many ways, including lowering your cancer risk. And if you drink, do so in moderation. Some studies suggest that red wine has antioxidant properties that may benefit your health.
Increase Your Vitamin D
Most people don’t get enough vitamin D. It can help protect against prostate cancer and many other conditions. Vitamin D-rich foods include cod liver oil, wild salmon and dried shitake mushrooms. Since the sun is a better, more readily available source of vitamin D, many experts recommend getting 10 minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen) every day. Doctors often recommend vitamin D supplements. However, you should talk to your doctor before taking any vitamin or supplement.
Stay Sexually Active
Two studies appear to show that men who have a higher frequency of ejaculation (with or without a sexual partner) were up to two-thirds less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Studies are ongoing, but some experts theorize that ejaculation clears the body of toxins and other substances that could cause inflammation.
Drugs to Prevent Prostate Cancer
Men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) are often treated with dihydrotestosterone (DHT)-lowering drugs called finasteride or dutasteride. These drugs have been studied extensively to determine whether they can prevent prostate cancer, and results suggest that they could reduce cancer risk by about 25 percent. Patients who develop cancer while on the drugs are more likely to get an aggressive form of the disease, so discuss the advantages and disadvantages with your doctor. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. But prostate enlargement affects even more men- about half of all men over age 50 and up to 90 percent of men over age 80. This condition, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) does not indicate prostate cancer risk. Yet some researchers suggest that whatever hormones or other influences cause BPH to develop may also spur the onset of cancer. BPH occurs when normal (noncancerous) prostate cells grow abnormally. As the prostate enlarges, it presses down on the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the bladder for voiding. This pressure can lead to the following symptoms: sensation that the bladder is not empty, even after urinating; feeling an urgent need to urinate; a weak urinary stream and dribbling; the need to stop and start several times when urinating; and the need to urinate several times during the night. Although a few studies have been done in this area, it is still uncertain why some men get BPH and not others, or what might prevent the condition. The only established risk factors for BPH are age and family history. Hormones are believed, however, to promote prostate cell growth. Study links high calorie intake
One study of the problem links higher calorie intake, as well as diets higher in protein and some kinds of polyunsaturated fats, with prostate enlargement. Researchers suggest that excess calorie consumption could somehow directly stimulate prostate enlargement. The excess body fat that accumulates and its effects on hormone levels could also be the link. Evidence from a number of studies that group too many calories, obesity and insulin resistance with cancer promotion suggest indirectly that if you avoid these three influences you can also reduce your risk of BPH. Other studies suggest that regular exercise can help protect against prostate cancer. Because keeping active directly affects hormone levels and helps weight control, activity may also discourage BPH. Greek men who eat more fruit decrease their odds of developing BPH, according to one study. Since fruits are loaded with a variety of vitamin and natural antioxidant phytochemicals, free radicals (highly reactive compounds that can damage our cells’ DNA) could be involved in BPH, just as many scientists believe they are in prostate cancer. A laboratory study found that lycopene, an antioxidant especially in cooked tomatoes, can slow the growth of prostate cells. BPH symptoms, treatments
Men who are significantly bothered by the symptoms of BPH should discuss them with their doctor. Burning sensation, pain or blood that appears when urinating demand immediate visits to the doctor. While these symptoms could indicate BPH, the problem could also be an infection, cancer or another obstruction that needs medical treatment. If BPH is the diagnosis, your doctor can offer treatment through medications or surgery. Supplements such as saw palmetto and pygeum are also popular alternatives to block the effects of hormones and reduce BPH symptoms. But since supplements are unregulated in the U.S., the quality and safety of these products is unreliable. Research is underway to evaluate if prostate cancer can be prevented through soy, selenium, vitamin E and vitamin D. But the potential impact of these substances on either prostate cancer or BPH is unknown. To prevent BPH, maintaining a healthy weight by avoiding excess calories and keeping physically active is a good step based on today’s evidence. Eating a balanced plant-based diet loaded with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, which the American Institute for Cancer Research advocates for lower cancer risk, is another. For now, that’s the soundest advice to avoid the seemingly unavoidable enlargement of the prostate.
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