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Can Your Diet Help Prevent Prostate Cancer?

Dr. Glenn Bubley, Director of Genitourinary Oncology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, answers some questions about the link between diet and prostate cancer.

Q. How important is diet in preventing prostate cancer?

A. There haven't been any really good studies yet, but some of the results are worth a second look. A diet high in fat, especially animal fat, may be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. And some studies suggest that a diet high in dairy products and calcium may be linked to an increased risk for the disease, although the increase may be small. At this point, more research is needed.

It is clear, however, that obesity is a risk factor not just for getting prostate cancer, but also for getting a more aggressive form of the disease. There is also some evidence that exercise or weight loss after being diagnosed may help patients live longer.

Q. Are there any foods men should reduce or eliminate from their diet?

A. Maintaining a healthy diet is beneficial for everyone, regardless of their risk. The American Cancer Society recommends eating a variety of healthy foods with an emphasis on plant sources, and limiting your intake of red meats, especially high-fat or processed meats. Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Whole-grain breads, cereals, rice, pasta, and beans are also recommended. These guidelines may also lower the risk for some other types of cancer, as well as other health problems.

Q. Some research suggests that men who eat tomatoes seem to have a somewhat lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Is this true?

A. Tomatoes (raw, cooked, or in tomato products such as sauces or ketchup) are rich in lycopenes, antioxidants that help prevent damage to DNA. Some studies have suggested that lycopenes may help lower prostate cancer risk, but more research is needed. There are also ongoing studies of pomegranate juice, which some believe may help treat recurrent prostate cancer.

Q. What about Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in oily fish? Are they significant?

A. While Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to overall health, there is still not enough data to link fish oil to the prevention of prostate cancer.

Q. Does consuming Vitamin E help reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer?

A. No. In fact, Vitamin E taken as a preventative measure was associated with a HIGHER rate of prostate cancer. Selenium, which was included in the same study, was found to be ineffective as well.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted October 2011

Contact Information

Prostate Cancer Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Shapiro Clincial Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
Phone: 617-667-7777
Fax: 617-667-7292

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