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Prostate Cancer Risk and Diet

Prostate cancer has been correlated with certain types of diets, specifically those diets which are high in saturated fat, rely on red meat as the primary source of protein, or contain high levels of simple sugars. Many doctors believe that improving one’s diet may decrease one’s risk of developing prostate cancer.  Some researchers also believe that the elevated prostate cancer risk for African-American men is related in part to traditional diet which has high levels of saturated fat. These researchers also believe that geographic locations with a low risk of developing prostate cancer, such as Japan, Italy, and Greece, have less to do with lifestyle, genetics, and location and more to do with traditional diets.

Fat and Prostate Cancer
Saturated fat mostly comes from animal sources and at room temperature is solid. Examples include bacon fat, lard, and butter, whereas vegetable and olive oil, unsaturated fats, are liquid at room temperature. Your diet is considered high in fat if 20% of your calories or more come from saturated fat sources. Saturated fat sources include all animal (such as in red meat) and dairy products. Some researchers believe that the consumption of high levels of fat fuel the production of testosterone.  Testosterone in turn fuels the growth of prostate cells and prostate cancer.

Some researchers also believe that diets that are high in sugar may also raise one’s risk of prostate cancer. Excess sugar is stored in the body as fat and can also cause the high levels of body fat that can increase testosterone production.

Preventative Prostate Cancer Diets
Many researchers believe that some foods can have protective or preventative effects against prostate cancer. Foods such as red wine, green tea, berries, pomegranates, and more contain anti-oxidants which can protect cells against the harmful effects of oxidation. Changing sources of protein from red meat to fish, soy, or beans (which are also good sources of fiber) may contribute to a decreased development of prostate cancer later in life. Some researchers believe that diets high in fiber may have a protective effect against all types of cancer, not just prostate.

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, fresh fruits, such as tomatoes, along with other vegetables, such as carrots, have lycopene, beta carotene, and other vitamins and minerals which may help prevent prostate cancer. Having adequate (not excessive) amounts of selenium and vitamin E, if a man is originally deficient, may help prevent prostate cancer. Most doctors agree that men who eat well-balanced foods with appropriately low levels of animal fat will be healthier in general, possibly less likely to develop the disease, and, if they do develop the disease, more likely to have less aggressive versions or to be more tolerant towards therapy.

Traditional Diet and Prostate Cancer
Men from Italy and Greece who consume a traditional Mediterranean diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and olive oil have a lower incidence of the disease. Men from Japan who consume a traditional rural diet of fish, rice, and green tea also have a very low incidence of prostate cancer. Both of these diets are examples of preventative dietary habits.

If men from any of these groups move to the United States, within two generations, their chances, probably due to dietary changes, increase to that of a typical Caucasian man. Researchers are also finding that as Japan becomes more Westernized, and its citizens consume larger amounts of Western food, the disease rate tends to increase.


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