Health Encyclopedia


Health Encyclopedia Home

Prostate Cancer: Diet and Prevention

Diet and Prostate Cancer Prevention

Healthy-looking African-American man standing in the produce section of a market

Thousands of men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. It is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in American males other than skin cancer.

Some things, known as risk factors, increase your chances of getting the disease. For prostate cancer, the biggest risk factors are age and race. Men older than 50 and African-American men are at higher risk. Another risk factor, which is perhaps less influential but more under your control, is your diet. For some time now, research has shown that diet and nutrition likely play an important role in contributing to or preventing certain types of cancer, including prostate cancer. Health care professionals have made prevention recommendations based on the latest and most trustworthy findings.

Research on nutrition and cancer is a complex field, and progress and results come with difficulty. The good news is that diet is a risk factor that everyone can control. It's true that eating habits are hard to change. But what you eat, and how much of each type of food you eat, is your choice.

What aspects of diet seem to contribute to the risk of developing prostate cancer?

Most of the research seeking to identify the link between what men eat and their likelihood of getting prostate cancer has centered on saturated fat. Diets high in saturated fat are high in animal fat. Results of most studies indicate that men who eat a lot of saturated fat may have a greater chance of getting prostate cancer.

It isn't completely known why there seems to be a link between high fat intake and prostate cancer. One theory is that a diet high in saturated fat may increase testosterone levels. In turn, these higher hormone levels contribute to a greater risk of developing prostate cancer.

The most compelling connection of a high-fat diet to prostate cancer is found when experts look at who gets the disease across races and nationalities. African American men, who have the highest incidence rate, often have a diet high in animal fat. On the other end of the scale are Asian males, especially Japanese men living in Japan. They have the lowest rates for getting and dying of prostate cancer. The traditional diet in Japan is mostly vegetarian, so the amount of animal fat eaten is very low. Also, a vegetarian diet reduces, rather than increases, levels of testosterone.

Even more striking is what happens when men emigrate from Japan to the United States. Within two generations, their rates of getting prostate cancer increases to near that of American men. Typically, the traditional Japanese diet becomes more Americanized. That is, these men eat more animal fat. This move away from the vegetarian diet may explain the changes in this prostate cancer rate.

However, a few researchers have questioned whether high fat consumption itself is the primary culprit in the American diet. Some studies have indicated that men with a high-fat diet generally consume significant amounts of dairy products and low amounts of fruits and vegetables. Rather than high fat, the main connection to prostate cancer may be that this diet is high in dairy (or perhaps even calcium) and low in vegetables and fruits.

The precise role that diet plays in the development of prostate cancer is still under study.

What's the scientific evidence of the role of diet in preventing prostate cancer?

While studies of the amount of fat in a diet have been prostate cancer researchers' primary focus, other findings about the effect of what men eat continue to be made.

Lycopene is a substance naturally found in tomatoes and other red fruits, such as grapefruit and watermelon. It may help lower the risk for prostate cancer. This discovery was made in a well-publicized study in 1995. In it, the eating habits of 47,000 men were examined for six years. It was found that men who ate at least 10 servings a week of tomato-based food (all forms, cooked or uncooked) were up to 35 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer. Tomatoes and tomato products accounted for almost 90 percent of the lycopene in the diets of these men.

How might lycopene work? It's a natural antioxidant. Antioxidants are thought to prevent damage to a person's DNA. This may in turn protect against certain changes in DNA, which can cause prostate cells to grow abnormally.

Some studies done since that time have found that lycopene may lower the chance of getting prostate cancer, but others have not found such a link. More research needs to be done before lycopene or other antioxidants can be said to be preventive.

Some other studies have looked at the role that selenium, vitamins E and A, carotenoids, and other foods have in protecting against prostate cancer. Conclusions from these studies have not shown that these are protective.

How can I adapt my diet to lower my risk of getting prostate cancer?

Based on the majority of research, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has developed nutritional guidelines for a healthy approach to eating that may help lower your risk for many types of cancer, including prostate cancer.

The ACS recommends a diet that limits processed and red meats and is rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains instead of refined grains. Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat usually means that you will eat less high-fat and high-calorie foods. This type of diet, along with regular exercise, will also help you maintain a balanced, healthy weight for your height.

Related Items
Wellness Library
  What Do You Know About Prostate Health?
SCC Videos
  Prostate Cancer
Content Type 134
  How Lifestyle and Medical History Affect Cancer Risk: Facts for Gay and Bisexual Men
  Top 10 Cancers Among Men
Content Type 167
  Prostate-Specific Antigen
Nutritional Supplement Advisor
Drug Reference
  Diethylstilbestrol, DES
Cancer Source
  Statistics About Prostate Cancer
  Am I At Risk for Prostate Cancer?
  What Are the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?
  Understanding Your Stage of Prostate Cancer
  How Does My Doctor Know I Have Prostate Cancer?
  Tests That Help Evaluate Prostate Cancer
  Understanding the Gleason Score and Your Grade of Prostate Cancer
  Prostate Cancer Treatment Introduction
  The Goal of Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer
  Prostate Cancer Vaccines
  Prostate Cancer and PSA Screening
  What Happens During Internal Radiation Therapy (Brachytherapy) for Prostate Cancer
  Dealing with Erectile Dysfunction
  Osteoporosis in Men with Cancer
  I've Just Been Told I Have Prostate Cancer
  What to Know About Your Treatment Choices for Prostate Cancer
  What to Know About Surgery for Prostate Cancer
  What to Know About Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer
  What to Know About Combination Therapy for Prostate Cancer
  How Your Doctor Uses Biopsies to Diagnose Prostate Cancer
  What You Need to Know About PIN
  Can I Survive Prostate Cancer? What Is My Prognosis?
  Tell Your Healthcare Team How You Feel During Treatment for Prostate Cancer
  Do What You Can to Ease Side Effects of Treatment for Advanced Prostate Cancer
  What Happens During External Beam Radiation Treatment for Prostate Cancer
  What to Expect After External Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer
  Treatment Options for Local Prostate Cancer
  What to Expect After Internal Radiation (Brachytherapy) Treatment for Prostate Cancer
  What Happens During Hormone Treatment for Prostate Cancer
  What to Expect After Hormone Treatment for Prostate Cancer
  Goal of Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer
  What Happens During Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer
  What to Expect After Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer
  Treatment Options for Metastatic or Advanced Prostate Cancer
  Questions to Ask About Treatment for Prostate Cancer
  What to Know About Lymph Node Biopsies: How to Tell if Prostate Cancer Has Spread
Cancer FAQs
  Prostate Cancer FAQ
  Reproductive Cancers Quiz
Daily News Feed
  Helping Men Resolve Conflicts About Prostate Cancer Screening
  Experts Call for Redefinition of 'Cancer'
  High-Tech Prostate Scan May Boost Cancer Detection
  Metformin May Lower Risk of Prostate Cancer Death, Researchers Say
  'Watch & Wait' OK for Many Low-Grade Prostate Tumors: Study
  18-Year Study Finds Drug Cut Prostate Cancer Risk
  Could Heavy Coffee Drinking Help Men Battle Prostate Cancer?
  Gene Test May Help Predict Prostate Cancer Aggressiveness
  Extended Hormone Therapy Doesn't Help Some Prostate Cancer Patients: Study
  Usual 'Hot Flash' Therapies Don't Help Prostate Cancer Patients: Study
  Older Men Gain Little From PSA Test: Study
  Radiation Therapy Overused in Advanced Prostate Cancer, Study Says
  Study Ties Y Chromosome Variations to Prostate Cancer Risk
  Blood Test Shows Promise for Cancer Detection, Study Finds
  Many Doctors Ignore Guidelines, Order PSA Tests for Elderly Men
  Prostate Biopsies May Cause Unnecessary Worry for Many Men, Study Finds
  Do Some Docs Have Vested Interest in Prescribing Radiation for Prostate Cancer?
  Tests May Someday Show Which Breast, Prostate Cancers Will Turn Aggressive
  Overweight Men May Face Higher Death Risk From Prostate Cancer: Study
  Statin Use Linked to Lower Prostate Cancer Death Risk
  History of Prostate Cancer Tied to Higher Odds for Melanoma
  Type of Surgical Anesthesia Might Influence Prostate Cancer's Return
  U.S. Cancer Death Rates Continue to Decline: Report
  Mouse Study Hints at Plastics Chemical's Link to Prostate Cancer Risk
  U.S. Cancer Deaths Decline Again: Report
  Scientists Explore Effect of Exercise on Prostate Cancer Patients
  Progress Against Cancer May Be Greater Than Thought
  'Sleep Hormone' Tied to Possible Lower Prostate Cancer Risk
  Drug May Extend Survival for Men With Advanced Prostate Cancer
  Vitamin E, Selenium Supplements Might Double Chances of Prostate Cancer
  Surgery May Benefit Younger Prostate Cancer Patients
  New Therapy May Shrink Enlarged Prostate With Fewer Side Effects: Study
  Newer Radiation Therapy Treats Prostate Cancer More Quickly: Study
  Slight Drop in Rate of Advanced Cancers, CDC Says
  Cialis May Not Prevent Impotence in Men Treated for Prostate Cancer
  DNA Test May Gauge Risk of Prostate Cancer's Return
  Quarter of Prostate Cancer Patients May Abandon 'Watchful Waiting' Approach
  Low Vitamin D Linked to Aggressive, Advanced Prostate Cancers: Study
  Some Prostate Cancer Patients Might Safely Delay Hormonal Therapy: Study
  Dogs May Help Spot Human Prostate Cancers, Study Finds
  Diet, Lifestyle Affect Prostate Cancer Risk, Studies Find
  New Approach May Boost Survival From Advanced Prostate Cancer
  New Drug May Boost Survival for Advanced Prostate Cancer Patients: Study
  Cost of Prostate Cancer Surgery Varies Widely in U.S.
  Study Links Vasectomy to Aggressive Prostate Cancer
  Depression May Make It Harder to Beat Prostate Cancer
  Can Bike Riding Up Prostate Cancer Risk?
  Men With Prostate Cancer May Not Always Get Best Advice
Adult Diseases and Conditions
  Prostate Cancer
  Prostate Cancer in African-American Men
  Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  Clinical Trials for Prostate Cancer
  Coping with Prostate Cancer
  For Family Members Coping with Prostate Cancer
  Grading of Prostate Cancer
  Herbal Remedies For Prostate Cancer
  Home Page - Prostate Health
  Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer
  Expectant Therapy
  Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer
  Radiation Therapy
  Diagnostic and Evaluation Procedures for Prostate Cancer
  Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer
  Prostate Cancer Index
  Psychosocial Factors
  Treatments for Prostate Cancer
  Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
  Staging of Prostate Cancer
  Surgery for Prostate Cancer
  Prostate Cancer Overview
Test and Procedures
  Prostate Biopsy