Prostate Cancer: Foods To Reduce Your Risk
Prostate Cancer Prevention
Cancer is a disease that doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care about age, race, gender, socioeconomic status or where you were born. It can strike anyone at any given time, sometimes with little warning. Some forms of cancer are extremely dangerous and fast moving, while others are treatable with a prognosis of a full recovery if detected early. Prostate cancer is one example which can be terminal for males.
On average, women visit the doctor at least once a year for annual exams, but unfortunately, some people (namely men) elect to forego annual checkups for a variety of reasons, ranging from they don’t have time, they feel ok, or they simply don’t want to know if they are sick.
This content is intended to be educational; it should not be construed as medical advice. If you have a medical concern you should consult an appropriately licensed physician or health care worker.
A recent survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians reveals that 55 percent of US men haven’t seen their primary care physician in the past year. A Men’s Health Forum (MHF) research study found that men in Britain go to the doctors 20% less than women.1
Whatever the reason, it’s critical men go to the doctor annually and get checked out, especially for diseases that have few symptoms like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is an issue around the world, and these 2012 statistics should prompt men to take notice:
- More than 1.1 million cases of prostate cancer were recorded in 2012.2
- Prostate cancer is the 5th leading cause of cancer death in men worldwide.2
- Martinique, Norway, and France have the highest incidents of prostate cancer.2
- 70% of all cases occurred in developed regions.
- Approximately 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.3
- About 6 cases in 10 are diagnosed in men aged 65 and over.3
- Prostate cancer is more common in men of African or Caribbean descent.3
- Prostate cancer risks are increased if a close relative has been diagnosed.3
Like high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels, prostate cancer symptoms are not easily detectable in the early stages unless checked out by a doctor. The following symptoms are common in the more advanced stages:
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
- Blood in the semen
- Decreased force in the stream of the urine
- Trouble urinating
Most men should get their prostate checked every four years starting at age 50, but they should see a doctor immediately if they experience any of the above symptoms regardless of their age.
If a person is diagnosed with prostate cancer, there are several treatment options available for them to consider:
Watching and waiting: in most men, the cancer grows slowly and doesn’t spread to other areas. If a person has been diagnosed and the cancer is indeed slow moving, doctors might advise to do nothing for the time being and just have the cancer monitored. If the cancer starts to grow or spread to other areas of the body, treatment options are then looked into.4
Surgery: part or all of the prostate is removed. 5
Chemotherapy: used primarily if the disease has spread past the prostate. 5
Hormone therapy: lowers the levels of hormones the body makes that stimulates the growth of prostate cancer cells.5
Radiation therapy: high energy waves are used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. 5
Biologic therapy: treatment that stimulates the immune system to fight the disease. 5
Bone-directed treatment: drugs designed to ease pain and fractures if the cancer has spread to the bones.5
Ultrasound: a probe that gives off high heat, which kills cancer. 5
Cryotherapy: the opposite of an ultrasound. This treatment uses a probe that uses extreme cold to freeze the cancer cells.5
The type of treatment a person chooses will depend on several factors: the patient’s age, the stage of cancer, and the cancer’s estimated growth rate. All options should be investigated before making a final decision.
The prostate produces an alkaline fluid that contains approximately 30% of the volume of semen. This fluid helps neutralise the acidity of the vaginal tract, which in turn prolongs the lifespan of sperm.6 Some possible side effects of prostate cancer treatments greatly affect the function of the prostate in the following ways:
- Lower sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Inability to get a woman pregnant
- Bowel problems
- Leaky bladder or loss of bladder control
These potential side effects can be very upsetting for some men. This information may reinforce the belief in some that getting treatment may do more harm than good, especially if it is a slow moving cancer. They may also conclude if they probably won’t receive treatment then there’s no need to get checked in the first place.
This is not wise, because while in most cases it does grow slowly, in others it grows quickly and spreads to other areas of the body. It should be noted that prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer. About 1 man in 38 will die of prostate cancer.3
Getting checked is very important, but more emphasis should be put on reducing the risk of getting prostate cancer as well.
Many people think medicine is the first line of defense against illness and disease, but it is not. A strong immune system keeps the body healthy by attacking germs and organisms that invade the body. The weaker the immune system, the more difficult it is to fend off the invading germs, resulting in an increased probability of becoming ill.
The foods we eat play an important role in keeping the immune system functioning smoothly and efficiently. Another factor is lifestyles choices, particularly smoking cigarettes and alcohol. Worldwide, men tend to partake more in these harmful activities than women:
- Men are more at risk for abusing or becoming dependent on alcohol than women.
- Alcoholism is more than twice as common among men as women.6
- Worldwide it is estimated that men smoke nearly five times as much as women.7
As previously discussed, one reason men don’t go to the doctor is because they claim to feel fine. They may feel fine now, but thanks to a poor diet and bad choices as described above, they may feel terrible later. These and other bad habits can weaken an immune system and make a person susceptible to many diseases, including prostate cancer. Being proactive by eating nutrient dense foods should be a top priority for overall health.
Here are foods that are noted to benefit the prostate:
Tomatoes and tomato based products: Tomato paste, spaghetti sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato juice and ketchup all contain lycopene a powerful antioxidant. In studies published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, researchers found men who ate more tomatoes and tomato based products were less likely to develop prostate cancer.8
Broccoli: The American Cancer Society investigated evidence that the phytochemical sulforaphane, which is found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, specifically targets cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells intact.9
Green tea: Studies are ongoing, but scientists believe the components found in green tea (catechi, xanthine derivatives, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) and epicatechin may prevent the development of prostate cancer.
Legumes: Beans, peanuts, and soybeans all contain isoflavones, which is thought to be a cancer fighting plant compound. In preliminary studies, the National Cancer Institute found a link between the consumption of isoflavones and decreased levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA.)
Pomegranate juice: Scientists believe the antioxidants in pomegranate juice hinder the production of various prostate cancer cells.
Fish: Studies indicate the omega 3’s in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines and trout inhibit the growth of cancer cells.10
Garlic: According to a University of Colorado report, allicin and alliin are two compounds of garlic that may provide protection against prostate cancer.
The foods a person chooses to eat can either help them or hurt them. Eating foods that are believed to keep the prostate healthy may help decrease a person’s risk of getting prostate cancer.
In addition to eating the above listed foods daily, other lifestyle changes should be considered as well:
Maintain a healthy weight: Overweight men have a higher probability of getting prostate cancer.11
Exercise: Studies show that men who exercise have a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
Decrease stress levels: Long term stress can weaken the immune system, which can increase the risk of disease, including prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer affects millions of men worldwide. While many of the cases are diagnosed in men over age 65, preventive maintenance should be taken decades earlier. Annual physicals, eating a healthy diet and regular exercise are keys to keeping the prostate healthy.
10 Szymanski, K., Wheeler, D., & Mucci, L. (2010). Fish consumption and prostate cancer risk: A review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92(5), 1223-1233. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20844069
11 Prostate cancer prevention. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/prostate/healthprofessional. Accessed July 30, 2014.