Prostate cancer prevention
is a "hot" area of medical research � the focus of several large-scale,
long-term studies. This research holds exciting possibilities for the
future and suggests some prostate cancer prevention strategies for you
to use now.
As you decide what prevention strategies to
adopt, keep in mind that several of the strongest known risk factors
for prostate cancer are beyond your control. These include:
- Age. Prostate cancer is unusual in men under 50, but incidence of the disease increases dramatically after that age.
- Race. African-American men are at increased risk of prostate cancer.
- Genetics. Your risk of prostate cancer is higher if other men in your family have had the disease.
you have these characteristics, it means only that your likelihood of
developing prostate cancer is higher than that of a man without the
characteristic. A 55-year-old African American man whose father had
prostate cancer is still more likely to live out his life without
prostate cancer than he is to develop it. The full range of factors
that cause prostate cancer is still largely unknown.
if you don't have any of the three uncontrollable risk factors for
prostate cancer, it pays to follow the lifestyle linked to a lower risk
of the disease. The habits that protect against prostate cancer might
help you to avoid other diseases as well � heart disease and colorectal
cancer, for example. Find out which of these habits you've already
adopted, and consider others you can make later on.
Much of the research on prostate cancer prevention focuses on nutrition. Key factors include:
Prostate cancer rates vary greatly from one country to another, with
the highest rates appearing in countries where people tend to eat a lot
of fat. In fact, the number of prostate cancer deaths in a given
country rises in direct proportion to the average total calories from
fat in that country's typical diet.
Some studies link a diet high in vegetables to a lower risk of prostate
cancer. For example, one study found that men who ate 28 or more
servings of vegetables each week had lower rates of prostate cancer
compared to men who ate less than 14 servings.
In one study, prostate cancer was two to three times more common in men
who ate no fish as in men who ate moderate to large amounts of fish.
Types of fish that are rich in the fatty acids that protect against
prostate cancer and other diseases include salmon, herring, and
So far, research does not support
definite nutritional guidelines for preventing prostate cancer.
However, you can reasonably act on these suggestions:
- Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Reduce intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Limit sweets and salt.
- Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, if at all.
- Eat moderate-sized portions and control calories.
Healthy diet basics: Using a food pyramid
have not established a direct link between obesity and incidence of
prostate cancer. However, obesity might affect levels of hormones
related to prostate cancer risk.
Strategies for preventing obesity include:
- Following guidelines for a healthy diet
- Meeting with your doctor to develop a plan for physical activity
- Doing some form of aerobic exercise for 30 minutes or more daily
Aerobic exercise: What 30 minutes a day can do for your body
drugs, vitamins and minerals may reduce your risk of prostate cancer, a
strategy known as chemoprevention. Current research does not support
the routine use of any drug or nutritional supplement to prevent
prostate cancer. Yet several chemical agents show potential benefits.
(finasteride), traditionally prescribed to treat prostate enlargement,
or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), reduced overall rates of
prostate cancer by 25 percent in the 18,000-man Prostate Cancer
Prevention Trial (PCPT). Men who took finasteride, however, were more
likely to experience impotence, loss of sexual desire and breast
enlargement than those who took a placebo. In addition, the men who did
develop prostate cancer while taking Proscar were more likely to have
aggressive forms of the disease. The reasons for these results are
Another BPH drug, duasteride, also seems to have
properties that prevent prostate cancer. A large, international study
is now underway to further test this finding.
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) might prevent prostate
cancer. These drugs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and
naproxen (Aleve). NSAIDS inhibit an enzyme called COX-2, which is found
in prostate cancer cells. More studies are needed to confirm whether
NSAID use actually results in lower rates of prostate cancer or reduced
deaths from the disease.
and other legumes contain phytoestrogens, which are plant-based
chemicals that behave like the hormone estrogen in the human body.
These chemicals might help to prevent prostate cancer. In fact, one
possible explanation for lower rates of prostate cancer in Asian men is
that they eat more soy protein.
Researchers are not sure
how phytoestrogens could produce this effect. Phytoestrogens may
decrease levels of androgens, male hormones that stimulate the growth
of prostate cancer. Or, phytoestrogens might simply balance out
Tomatoes and related products, such as
tomato sauce and ketchup, might offer protection in a different way �
by providing lycopene. This vitamin-like substance acts as an
antioxidant, lowering cancer risk by preventing DNA damage in the
nuclei of cells. Go for the richest sources of lycopene � processed
tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon rather than supplemental
lycopene in tablet form.
Selenium and vitamin E
of nutrition research have suggested that daily doses of the mineral
selenium, vitamin E or both may help to prevent prostate cancer. The
Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), launched in
2001, is following up on these observations.
projected endpoint in 2013, SELECT will have data on prostate cancer
diagnosis and treatment from over 32,000 men. These men are taking
selenium, vitamin E, a combination of both, or a placebo. By studying
such a large number of people over so many years, researchers will gain
detailed evidence about the preventive effects of these two substances.
word of caution: Taking herbal medicines or nutritional supplements
without medical guidance poses some risks � particularly if you combine
such products with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Before
using any drug, herb or supplement, talk to your doctor.
Selenium Supplements (Systemic)
Vitamin E (Systemic)
reasons for interest in preventing prostate cancer are clear. Prostate
cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in men, exceeded
only by lung cancer.
Even so, prostate cancer affects far
more men than it eventually kills. According to the National Cancer
Institute, about one-fifth of men in the United States will be
diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. Yet only 3
percent of American men will die of the disease.
the number of prostate cancer diagnoses exceed the number of deaths by
such a large ratio? One answer is that prostate cancer progresses more
slowly than many other types of cancer. Many men live with it for
years. Some survive disease-free after treatment. And others refrain
from treatment while closely monitoring the cancer's progression � an
approach known as "watchful waiting."
To keep your risks in
perspective, stay in regular contact with your doctor about your
prostate health. Ask about prevention strategies that make the most
sense for you, given your current health and medical history.
annual prostate checkup can't reduce your risk of cancer, as perhaps a
healthy diet and exercise can. But having regular checkups is crucial
to staying healthy. If prostate cancer does develop, a digital rectal
exam (DRE) and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test may discover the
problem in its earliest stages. This is the time when treatment can be