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Link between nutrition and prostate cancer remains unclear, study says

by Matt Doyle and Jon Corwin
Dec 02, 2008

Nutrition and preventing prostate cancer

So far, research does not support definite nutritional guidelines for preventing prostate cancer. However, you can reasonably act on these suggestions:

· Don't overeat. Eat moderate-sized portions and keep your calories under control.

· Avoid high-fat foods. Prostate cancer rates vary greatly from one country to another, with the highest rates appearing in countries where people tend to eat a lot of fat. A diet high in saturated fats (such as animal fats found in red meat) may pose the greatest risk.

· Make healthy choices. Choose whole-grain foods, such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread. Limit sweets and salt.

· Drink alcohol in moderation. Generally, this means no more than two drinks a day for men.

· Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. A diet high in fruits and vegetables has been linked to a lower risk of various kinds of cancer. Recent studies cast doubt on the theory that lycopene — an antioxidant found in tomatoes — lowers prostate cancer risk. But don't stop eating tomatoes. Eating plenty of all kinds of vegetables, including tomatoes, may help ward off prostate cancer and other cancers.

· Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. While a diet high in most kinds of fat is linked to a higher risk of cancer and other health problems, there is an exception. Omega-3 fatty acids — a type of fat found in cold-water fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel — appear to reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Experts are still studying other foods to see whether they help prevent prostate cancer. While the verdict's still out, eating more of these foods probably won't hurt — and may help prevent cancer and other health problems:

· Eat soy products and legumes. Soybeans and other legumes contain phytoestrogens, which are plant-based chemicals that behave like the hormone estrogen in the human body. These chemicals might help to prevent prostate cancer. In fact, one possible explanation for lower rates of prostate cancer in Asian men is that they eat more soy protein.

· Drink green tea. Green tea contains antioxidants such as polyphenols that may help prevent certain cancers and other health problems.

Courtesy of Mayo Clinic Staff

 In the largest study to date, researchers failed to find a benefit to nutritional supplements in preventing prostate cancer.

Though 35,000 patients  were told to discontinue use of selenium and Vitamin E, nutrients that had been thought to prevent prostate cancer, Dr. Eric Klein, co-chair of the  Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, known as SELECT, said researchers will continue to follow the study participants.The study results were released in November.

Dr. Bharathi Reddivari, of the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, one of several Chicago area centers involved in the study, noted that participants were required to take an annual prostate specific antigen test and digital rectal exam and a physical exam.

Reddivari, whose group included 750 patients, said the decision to have the participants stop taking the supplements came seven years into a study planned for 10 years.

African-American men in the study had to be age 50 or older because this group on average develops prostate cancer at an earlier age than other men. Men of other races and ethnicities had to be 55 or older.

Dr. Paul Yanover, urologist at the Urological Specialists in Chicago, who was not involved in the study, said the link between prostate cancer and nutrition is hazy.

“There has not been anything shown conclusively from a nutritional standpoint or nutritional supplement standpoint nothing has shown convincingly to show prevention," he said.

Yanover said several things have been looked at like selenium and vitamin E.

“A final analysis isn’t available yet,” Yanover said. “Selenium and vitamin E could have something to do with prostate cancer prevention.”

“There is a whole field being developed about nutrition and cancer relationships,” Yanover said. “That is sort of one of the holy grails of prostate cancer. We know that somewhere between one in six and one in seven men has the risk of prostate cancer.”

 The Illinois Department of Health estimates that Illinois had 8,470 new cases of invasive prostate cancer in 2006, with over 1,300 dying from the disease.