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Prostate Cancer Prevention

A report published by the National Cancer Registry shows that the number of new cases of prostate cancer has almost doubled in Ireland over the past decade.   There are approximately 3,000 new cases diagnosed each year and the rise in new people being diagnosed has partially been explained by the higher rate of medical screening.  On a more positive note, 50% of all cancers are preventable and 30% are preventable through lifestyle changes alone, according the website.  The information provided in this article is aimed at men who are looking to decrease their risk of developing prostate cancer, but have not previously had prostate cancer. 

Gentlemen take note…

Good health and reducing cancer risk begins with eating a healthy balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight and waist measurement. “Clean” eating habits are the cornerstone to healthy lifestyle; include mostly natural or unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), nuts, seeds, lean animal foods and some dairy products.  To decrease prostate cancer risk, it is also recommended that men include foods rich in nutrients called lycopene and selenium, and avoid having too much calcium.

Eat foods rich in lycopene. Lycopene is an anti – oxidant which prevents damage to cells. Studies show that when lycopene is consumed from food sources, it reduces blood supply to a tumour in the prostate and is associated with reduced risk of death from prostate cancer. Tomatoes are the highest natural source of lycopene and it’s best absorbed when foods are cooked, pureed or eaten with a little healthy type fat e.g. including a small amount of avocado, nuts or olive oil to be added to bolognaise sauce, tinned tomatoes, grilled tomatoes, tomato puree or no added sugar tomato sauce.  Other good sources of lycopene include red coloured foods such as watermelon, grapefruit, apricots and red peppers.

Hold on the buckets of milk! The recommended amount of calcium per day is 800mg for adults but consuming more than 1500 mg per day of calcium may increase the risk of prostate cancer. Use calcium supplements to help meet daily recommended amounts only if you are unable to consume three portions of dairy products every day; milk (200ml), cheese (25g / 1oz) or yogurt (pot) per day.

Disease fighting compounds found in plant foods likely have greater protective health benefits when eaten as whole foods rather than when taken as dietary supplements.  Nutrients may protect at one dosage, but may have unwanted health effects at a slightly higher dose. For example, vitamin E from foods (e.g. almonds, tofu, spinach and rainbow trout) may protect against developing prostate cancer.  On the other hand, in the well known “SELECT trial” and other studies found vitamin E supplements increased the risk of developing prostate cancer by a substantial 17%.  The use of vitamin E supplements as protection against prostate cancer should therefore be avoided.

The mineral selenium has also been found to help prevent prostate cancer in men.  Nuts (especially brazil nuts), seeds, fish, turkey, chicken and eggs are good dietary sources.  Similarly to vitamin E, supplements of selenium should not be taken for prostate cancer prevention.

Omega 3 Fat Scare

A study published in the August 2013 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute examined the association between blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and prostate cancer risk among men who participated in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT). The researchers found that men who had higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids were more likely to develop prostate cancer. Many headlines followed in the media, erroneously singling out fish oil supplements as the culprit.  According to Theodore Brasky, PhD, the lead researcher of the study, “only a minority of the men in the study took omega 3 supplements.” While researchers saw a correlation and not a cause-and-effect relationship, it still may be prudent for men to avoid large doses of omega-3s whether from excessive oily type fish (salmon, trout, mackerel) or from supplements, he says.  “Large” amounts of oily fish can be difficult to define common sense would tell us that that eating oily type fish every day isn’t actually a “balanced” diet.

Finally, research is generally consistent for a protective effect of legumes against stomach and prostate cancer.  Legumes include peas, lentils and all types of beans including baked beans, soya beans and lentils.

Reference: Penn Nutrition 2014.