Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths among men in America – with 26,730 men in this country expected to die of the disease in 2017.
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men besides skin cancer, and typically affects males who are 50 years old and up.
Fortunately, there are some natural ways that may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer, including exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet.
This article takes a look at natural methods that men can incorporate into their lives that might help alleviate the possibility of becoming afflicted with this disease.
We’ve obtained information from top organizations on this topic, and compiled advice from experts, to provide you with natural ways that can potentially reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Keep in mind that this article is not intended as a cure or medical advice. Rather, this information is for educational purposes only and should not replace the advice of your doctor or healthcare provider.
Let’s begin by discussing what causes prostate cancer and current statistics in the United States.
What Is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is the most common non-cutaneous cancer in men, typically involves men over the age of 50, and blacks have a higher incidence than whites, according to Robert Princenthal, a physician with over 30 years of clinical experience and an expert in Prostate MRI since 2009. He is also co-director of Prostate Imaging for Radnet, Inc. in Southern California.
He explained that the prostate gland is a walnut-sized organ that sits at the bladder neck, and makes fluid to assist in ejaculation, and expresses a blood marker, called PSA, which stands for Prostate Specific Antigen.
“The incidence of prostate cancer has been stable for several years, and mirrors the incidence and mortality rates of breast cancer,” Dr. Princenthal said. “Roughly 230,000 new cases of both breast and prostate cancer are detected each year, and roughly 28,000 to 30,000 men and women die each year of their respective diseases.”
There is a genetic component associated with prostate cancer.
“Men with a strong family history of prostate cancer being discovered in their fathers, brothers or grandfathers have an increased risk, as do men who have a family history of the BRAC1 and 2 genetic mutation, which conveys strong risk for breast or ovarian cancer in women,” Dr. Princenthal said.
Approximately 161,360 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, noted Katherine Row, director of communications for the American Cancer Society.
Prostate cancer is most common in men aged 50-plus, “so age, as well as genetics, are unmodifiable risk factors,” Row noted. “The risk of prostate cancer is 74% higher in black men than in whites for reasons that are not yet known.”
She agreed that men with a close family member with BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer gene mutations, as well as those with Lynch Syndrome, also have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
Three Natural Ways That Help Reduce the Risk of Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is a disease of aging, and many risk factors – such as age, family history and race – can’t be controlled.
However, lifestyle changes, which the American Cancer Society encourages, may affect one’s risk of developing the disease, as they do many cancers, Row said. Those include maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, and eating at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily.
The following natural methods might help men reduce their risk of prostate cancer:
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
A Body Mass Index calculator can help determine whether or not your weight is healthy, or whether extra weight increases your risk for health problems, such as cancer. The American Cancer Society offers a free BMI calculator online at Body Mass Index calculator.
2. Exercise Regularly
The American Cancer Society recommends at least 30 minutes moderate to vigorous exercise five days a week. Moderate intensity activities are those that require effort equal to a brisk walk. Vigorous intensity activities generally use large muscle groups and result in a faster heart rate, deeper and faster breathing, and sweating. Here are a few examples of ways to get moving:
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walk or bike to your destination.
- Be active at lunch with your co-workers, family, or friends.
- Take a 20-minute activity break at work to stretch, or take a quick walk.
- Walk to visit co-workers instead of sending an email message.
- Go dancing with your spouse or friends.
- Plan active vacations, rather than driving trips.
- Wear a pedometer every day to increase your number of daily steps.
- Join a sports or recreation team.
- Use a stationary bicycle or treadmill while watching TV.
- Plan your activity routine to slowly increase the days per week and minutes per session.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
The American Cancer Society suggests eating a variety of plant-based foods and limiting fats and red and processed meats.
Several studies suggest that diets high in certain vegetables – including tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables, soy, beans, and other legumes – or fish may be linked with a lower risk of prostate cancer, especially more advanced cancers. Examples of cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
The following section includes several recommendations for diet and nutrition based on the most up-to-date clinical trials and long-term studies of men with prostate cancer.
Healthy Habits That May Slow the Growth and Progression of Prostate Cancer
In addition to the many benefits of adopting healthy behaviors, there is growing scientific evidence that suggests that diet and lifestyle practices may slow the growth and progression of prostate cancer, according to a study funded by the Prostate Cancer Foundation that was written by the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
The study – Health and Wellness: Living with Prostate Cancer – focuses specifically on lifestyle factors for the prevention of prostate cancer progression.
Many of the recommendations listed below are based on data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Cancer of the Prostate Strategic Urologic Research Endeavor Diet & Lifestyle Sub-Study.
Men with prostate cancer should exercise as much as they are able. Exercising at a vigorous intensity, where you are able to speak only a few words at a time but not complete sentences, for 3 or more hours per week, may be needed to achieve the full benefit of exercise. However, brisk walking for 30 minutes on most days yields substantial benefits.
Mounting evidence suggests that physical activity—specifically vigorous activities that cause you to sweat and your heart rate to increase, such as jogging or bicycling—is associated with a reduced risk of lethal prostate cancer. In addition, engaging in vigorous aerobic exercise may reduce the risk of dying from prostate cancer.
Among prostate cancer survivors in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, men who performed 3 or more hours per week of vigorous activity had a 61% lower risk of dying from prostate cancer compared to men who reported less than 1 hour of activity per week. Importantly, these findings were independent of clinical, demographic, and other lifestyle factors.
A second study conducted in CaPSURE™ found that men who walked 3 or more hours per week at a brisk pace (3 mph or faster) after diagnosis had a 57% lower risk of prostate cancer recurrence compared to men who walked fewer than 3 hours per week at an easy pace (slower than 2 mph).
Many studies have demonstrated that exercise improves cardio-respiratory (heart-lung) function, muscle strength, fat and muscle mass, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and overall quality of life among prostate cancer survivors, particularly among men on hormonal therapy. Researchers hypothesize that exercise affects energy metabolism, inflammation, oxidative stress, immunity, and androgen signaling pathways; and is therefore beneficial for men with prostate cancer.
Current evidence is insufficient to recommend taking up consumption of tea to reduce risk of prostate cancer incidence or progression. Several studies, conducted mostly in Asian populations, suggest that tea consumption may possibly be associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
However, a recent analysis combining data from several studies (a “meta-analysis”) found no overall association between tea consumption and prostate cancer. Another meta-analysis found green (but not black) tea consumption to be beneficial, but the findings were mainly from less reliable case-control studies.
Small clinical trials of tea extracts have yielded promising initial results, but more work needs to be done before definitive recommendations can be made regarding tea.
3. Vitamins & Supplements
Apart from a regular multivitamin, the use of any single nutrient supplement is not recommended, unless specifically recommended by a physician.
It is generally accepted that the use of a regular multivitamin is safe and may be beneficial. One recent large randomized controlled trial demonstrated a modest (8%) reduction in overall cancer risk among men who regularly took a multivitamin supplement. However, there is currently no convincing evidence that supports the use of any single supplement for protection against prostate cancer—neither its initial development nor its progression.
Simply because a product is “natural” does not mean it is safe, and some single nutrient supplements may be harmful. For example, selenium supplementation after prostate cancer diagnosis may actually increase the risk of dying from prostate cancer.
One potential exception is vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Many men are vitamin D deficient, especially older men, those with less sun exposure or who live in northern latitudes, and men with heavily pigmented skin. The study does not recommend supplements for men with sufficient vitamin D. All men should consult with their physician before taking a vitamin D supplement.
4. Body Mass Index (BMI)
Experts recommend that all men achieve and maintain a healthy weight through a nutritious diet and regular physical activity.
Body mass index is a measure of body fat calculated by dividing an individual’s weight (in kilograms) by height (in meters squared). A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered a healthy weight, while a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
High BMI is associated with increased risk of developing lethal prostate cancer, and increasing evidence suggests that obesity (either before or at the time of diagnosis) is associated with prostate cancer recurrence, progression, and mortality. This association may be due to biological mechanisms that involve insulin, altered levels of male hormones (androgens), and cellular activity in fat tissue.
Quitting smoking may reduce the risk of dying from prostate cancer, and reduces the risk of dying from any cause. The health benefits from quitting begin on the first day after smoking cessation.
Cigarette smoking accounts for nearly 1 in 5 deaths (approximately 443,000 deaths) in the U.S. each year. Smoking is associated with an increased risk of nearly all chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, and cancer. Recent evidence further suggests that smoking is associated with more aggressive prostate cancer at the time of diagnosis.
Furthermore, smokers have a higher risk of prostate cancer progression, including recurrence and metastasis, as well as an increased likelihood of death. Importantly, when compared to current smokers, men who quit smoking more than 10 years ago had prostate cancer mortality risk similar to those who had never smoked.
The Bottom Line
Holistic methods only convey a mild preventative risk reduction, according to Dr. Princenthal, who stated that “the scientific data regarding diet and exercise to help reduce the risk of dying of prostate cancer is positive, but weak.”
“Prostate cancer typically does not have any symptoms until it is late stage,” Dr. Princenthal noted. “It’s important for men to be tested and screened for prostate cancer over the age of 50 with a physical exam and PSA blood test.”
Making the commitment to change long-held behaviors is no easy feat, but it is your first step towards living a full and healthy life as a prostate cancer survivor, according to the study, Health and Wellness: Living with Prostate Cancer.
When it comes to healthy behaviors, you probably have an idea of what you “should” do, but bad habits are hard to break, and making lasting changes can be even more difficult. However, effective change is possible, and by modifying your behaviors gradually, you will achieve success in the long term.
Remember, any decisions regarding changes in supplements or medication should be made in consultation with your physician.
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