Prostate Cancer Prevention with Proper Nutrition

Contributors: Christopher R. Mohr, PhD, RD and Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN
Prostate Cancer Prevention with Proper Nutrition

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Did you know that, not counting some forms of skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men? In the United States, one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during the course of their life. There is no way to know for sure if you will get prostate cancer, but men have a greater risk of prostate cancer if they are 50 years old or older, are African-American, or have a father, brother or son who has had prostate cancer.

Can You Reduce the Risk?

While it's recommended that men discuss the benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening with their doctors, there's also the question of whether there's a way to reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer in the first place. Lycopene, vitamin E and selenium are marketed to men as tools to reduce the chance of developing the disease. But is supplementation beneficial? Can eating specific foods help?

Despite the many studies that have been done on selenium and vitamin E, their role in prostate cancer remains inconclusive. Some studies have shown a benefit of lycopene rich foods and reduced risk of prostate cancer. However, the strength of the research is still low. Most experts agree that men should get the recommended amounts of these nutrients from foods rather than supplements. A general, healthful eating pattern contains these nutrients which are naturally available in a variety of foods. Eating plentiful amounts of vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds contributes to overall health, including reducing risk of many types of cancer.

No Magic Bullet

Steer clear of supplements or foods that are touted as a "magic bullet" prevention tool. In fact, some research has emerged showing high levels of certain nutrients taken as supplements — including vitamin E — may increase cancer risk. However, there are some actions men can take to still get these beneficial nutrients to help them stay healthy.

  • Aim to eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. Choose a variety of colors when picking fruits and vegetables, including dark and vibrant colors. Dark colored produce, such as spinach and berries and vibrant colored produce like carrots and orange bell peppers, have higher levels of many antioxidants and other healthful nutrients. Individually, these nutrients may not play a major role in prostate cancer prevention. However, when obtained from foods, these nutrients work with one another to promote health.
  • Replace foods higher in saturated fat from sources like butter with more healthful alternatives from plant foods — like olive oil, canola oil, and avocados.
  • Be physically active. Research has shown that individuals who engaged in physical activity have a lower risk of dying from various types of cancer. For substantial health benefits, the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults engage in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week.

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