Foods That Affect Prostate Cancer Risk
What you eat may affect your risk of developing prostate cancer. Learn which foods are better than others.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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We all know that a diet low in fat and calories and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is good for our health. But if you have prostate cancer, what you eat may play a role in how your cancer progresses, and your dietary choices might even influence whether you ever develop the disease at all.
Reducing Prostate Cancer Risk Through Diet
Getting enough vitamins and minerals with a healthy, balanced diet may be one of the keys to warding off prostate cancer.
And using nutrition to your advantage may prove very useful when fighting prostate cancer too. Diet can be a powerful tool, according to Roberta Anding, a registered dietitian, instructor at the Baylor College of Medicine, and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
So whether your goal is to rid your body of prostate cancer already diagnosed, or to prevent yourself or your loved one from ever getting that diagnosis, some specific foods that are known to protect the body from cancer-causing carcinogens include:
- Tomatoes.Tomatoes are high in lycopene, which could have a protective effect against prostate, lung, and stomach cancers. Multiple studies suggest that high levels of lycopene in the blood are linked with a lower risk of prostate cancer and may even help slow the spread of cancerous cells. Lycopene is most effective if taken in natural form — that is, in food rather than in a supplement — and is particularly potent in cooked tomatoes. You can add tomatoes or tomato products to many dishes.
- Fruits.Diets high in fruits and vegetables have been shown to protect against many cancers. Lycopene-containing fruits including guava, papaya, and watermelon may be especially good for you. And some research suggests that pectin — a common fiber found in apples, apricots, plums, and citrus fruits and used as a thickener in many jams and marmalades — may reduce the number of cancerous cells by as much as 40 percent. Try to work fruit into your daily meals: Have an orange for an afternoon snack, or top off your morning oatmeal with chopped apples.
- Vegetables. A high-fiber diet rich in vegetables might be why Asian men develop prostate cancer so infrequently compared to Western men, a new study from the University of Colorado finds. Plus, fiber-rich eating could slow the progression of the disease, researchers say. Other studies have found broccoli and cauliflower to be especially effective in reducing cancer risk because cruciferous veggies slow the growth of cancer cells in the body. Add veggies to your favorite dishes or casseroles — or make a big, colorful salad.
- Green tea and soy.Although the benefits of these foods in fighting prostate cancer have so far been seen only in laboratory environments, researchers believe they show promise. Try sipping on soothing green tea — or add soy milk to your morning cup of coffee.
- Fish.Fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids (salmon is one example) may help reduce prostate cancer risk. Try to work fatty fish into your menu a few times a week.
"The bottom line on prevention is a plant-based diet with nuts and soy," recommends Anding.
Foods That Increase Prostate Cancer Risk
On the flip side, many foods may contribute to the development or spread of prostate cancer. Research shows, for example, that men who consume a lot of red meat may be at higher risk for the disease. One recent study from the University of California, San Francisco, found that intake of grilled or barbecued meat — especially well-done beef — was linked to twice the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
Other meats and processed foods also are more likely to increase the risk of prostate cancer, so try to keep them off your plate. Instead, get your protein through fresh cuts of lean meats, beans, or legumes.
While low-fat dairy products can be a healthy part of your diet, you may want to take it easy on dairy. Dairy products can contain the same fatty acids found in red meats that may actually increase the risk of prostate cancer.
Your Prostate Cancer Diet, and Why It Matters
Foods that can increase your risk of developing prostate cancer, or those shown to encourage progression of the disease, should be avoided if you have or are hoping to prevent prostate cancer.
Your best bet is to stick to a diet rich in fruits and vegetables — especially tomatoes — get plenty of whole grains, and go easy on the red meat and processed foods. Think fresh on your plate to boost your health and reduce your risk of prostate cancer.
Video: Prostate Cancer: Prevention Through Diet and Exercise
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