Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin malignancy in men and is responsible for more deaths than any other cancer, except for lung cancer. However, microscopic evidence of prostate cancer is found at autopsy in many if not most men. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimated that about 218,890 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in the United States during 2007. About 1 man in 6 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, but only 1 man in 34 will die of it. More than 1.8 million men in the United States are survivors of prostate cancer.
There is some evidence that links exercise to better prostate health. Exercise improves overall physical and mental health, so most medical professionals recommend at least a half an hour of exercise per week. Some studies indicate that regular exercise increases oxygen flow to the soft tissues of the body and helps to control glucose levels in the bloodstream. High levels of glucose may help fuel prostate cancer cells.
A healthy prostate diet is worth considering. High-fat and low-fiber diets and obesity seem to contribute to a higher risk of prostate cancer. Some researchers believe that cancerous prostate cells can feed on fat, especially fats found in red meat and dairy products. Omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish, soy, and flaxseed is known as the “heart-healthy” fats. Now we believe that the Omega-3 fatty acids are prostate healthy as well. Countries, like China and Japan, whose diets are based on fish proteins rather than red meat have much lower rates of prostate cancer. Soy products include tofu, soymilk, soy creamers, soy yogurts, soy ice creams, and tofu burgers. Red grapes, grape juice, green teas, and red wine contain anti-oxidants that can neutralize cancer-causing agents within the body. Lycopene found in tomatoes, and beta-carotene may be beneficial in helping to protect the body from the risk of prostate cancer. Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables may help boost the body’s cancer-fighting abilities.
Supplements such as vitamin E and selenium have been linked to a drastically decreased risk of prostate cancer. Studies of vitamin E and selenium seem to benefit those who were deficient in either Vitamin E or selenium, or who were ex-smokers. Studies have also noted that a daily regimen of aspirin or ibuprofen lowers risks of prostate cancer.
A few years ago a long-term study using the 5-alpha reductase inhibitor, Proscar or Avodart, lowers the risk of prostate cancer. This study as well as others has shown a 25% reduction in prostate cancer. However, the risk of developing a high-grade cancer or a more aggressive cancer was greater in those men taking finasteride as compared to a placebo or sugar pill.
So what is a man to do? If you are at risk for prostate cancer, i.e., you have a relative such as a father, brother, uncle with prostate cancer, are Afro-American, or are obese and consume a high fat and meat diet, then you should talk to your doctor about prostate cancer prevention using one of the agents like Proscar or Avodart. For the rest of the men: get an annual digital rectal exam and a PSA blood test once a year after age 50 or after age 40 if you are at high risk for prostate cancer.
Bottom Line: Knowledge is your best weapon for good prostate health and avoiding prostate cancer. Some lifestyles, eating habits, and dietary supplements are thought to lead to lower levels of prostate cancer, as well as other cancers. Nobody can guarantee prostate cancer prevention through behavior, diet, treatment, or medicine, but there are things you can do to improve your odds.