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Consuming deep-fried foods once a week may increase your risk of prostate cancer, researchers said.


Deep-fried foods may increase risk of prostate cancer, researchers say

by Emily Wasserman
Feb 07, 2013



Prostate cancer has been linked for the first time with fried foods, such as french fries and doughnuts, Seattle researchers are reporting.


Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that consumption of fried foods at least once a week increased men’s risk for prostate cancer by up to 37 percent. The study appeared in the January 2013 issue of The Prostate.

“Some other studies have looked at this a little in relation to other types of cancer, but this is first study showing a relationship between deep-fried consumption and prostate cancer,” said epidemiologist Marni Stott-Miller, lead author of the study.

She said the goal of the study was to examine the consumption of specific food items, rather than simply looking at chemical compounds found in deep-fried foods.

Researchers used data from two prior case studies to determine whether deep-fried food could contribute to men’s risk for prostate cancer. The men in the case studies were previously diagnosed with prostate cancer and received questionnaires asking them to retroactively assess their dietary intake.

The questionnaire included 99 food items and asked men to rate the frequency at which they consumed specific food or food groups. It also asked participants to evaluate how often they cooked with certain fats and oils, and how often they consumed foods that were prepared through pan-frying, sautéing and deep-frying.

Researchers found that patients who consumed french fries, fried chicken, fried fish and doughnuts at least once a week had an increased risk for prostate cancer.

French fry consumption was associated with the biggest increase in risk, at 37 percent, while snack chips had no association with an increased risk of cancer.

Stott-Miller said the decreased correlation between snack chip consumption and risk of prostate cancer could be due to errors in reporting.

“I thought that category was more problematic because it’s a snack item consumed between meals, so it’s often ignored or forgotten,” she said.

The prostate is a gland found just below the bladder that produces fluid to protect and enrich sperm. Most prostate cancers develop in gland cells, according to the American Cancer Society.

About one man in 36 will die of prostate cancer, the society said.

William J. Catalona, professor of urology and prostate expert at Northwestern University, said the study acknowledges the large role environmental factors play in risk for prostate cancer. According to the study, approximately 58 percent of an individual’s risk for prostate cancer can be attributed to environmental or lifestyle factors.

“You can’t do much about the genetics you inherit from your parents, but it’s widely acknowledged that your risk for cancer is a mixture of your genetics and your environment and how they interact with each other,” Catalona said.

He added that identifying modifiable lifestyle and diet risk factors could play an important role in decreasing a patient’s risk of cancer.

However, a limitation to the study was its sampling of men who had already been diagnosed with cancer, rather than individuals who were at risk, said Brandon Pierce, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Chicago.  

“You’re asking individuals questions about their diet after they develop prostate cancer. The fact that these study participants have cancer could affect the way they respond,” he said. “They could be more negative and say that their diet contributed to their diagnosis.”

Stott-Miller acknowledged that following subjects over time, rather than surveying them after they were diagnosed, would be a better way to draw conclusions about deep-fried food consumption and increased risk of prostate cancer.

She said the study’s main purpose was to plant a seed in the minds of scientists and inspire further research about the correlation between deep-fried food and prostate cancer.

“If someone does a study that’s not perfect but gives you a hint of something, it gives a reason for people to investigate and move forward,” Stott-Miller said.

Christopher Gonzalez, professor of urology at Northwestern University, agreed with Stott-Miller, and said the study helps promote dialogue between physicians and their patients.

“There’s always going to be flaws to these studies, but it gives us a little more information to tell our patients,” he said. “Prostate cancer is still a very real disease we need to do everything we can to prevent.”