Prostate Health - Johns Hopkins Health Alert

Prostate Disorders Special Report
Simple Steps to Protect Yourself Against Prostate Cancer

Reducing your risk of prostate cancer begins with the big picture, those well-publicized major lifestyle changes that are widely recommended but often difficult to accomplish. Then there are the smaller details: cancer-protective foods, supplements, and medications. A serious prostate cancer risk-reduction program encompasses both approaches.

Achieving a healthy weight, committing to regular exercise, and altering long-ingrained dietary habits are the most important steps you can take to protect yourself from prostate cancer. And their payoff goes far beyond the prostate. These lifestyle changes could reduce your risk of nearly all the most devastating diseases: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other forms of cancer. What’s more, they work together to improve your health. Here are some strategies to consider:

Weight management.
The links between obesity and prostate cancer continue to strengthen. Fat cells churn out a slew of substances that fuel the development and progression of cancer. These include estrogen, testosterone, and insulin-like growth factor. Men who are obese also are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. The possible reasons are that obese men tend to have larger prostates (making tumor detection more difficult), and their prostate specific antigen (PSA) scores are often deceptively low.

Regular exercise.
Vigorous physical activity appears to protect against prostate cancer. Men who exercise regularly are less likely to be diagnosed with advanced or fatal prostate cancer. Some evidence suggests that vigorous physical activity may also slow its progression.

Dietary changes.
Adopting a plant-based diet can reduce your risk of prostate cancer and improve your overall health. This dietary approach focuses on fruits, vegetables, legumes (like beans and peas), whole grains, seeds, and nuts. Soy foods (like soy nuts and tofu) also appear to be protective. Aim for at least nine fruits and vegetables a day.

To get all the cancer-fighting nutrients you need, try to include a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables each day -- reds, oranges, yellows, greens, and blues/purples. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are rich in carotenoids, cancer-fighting substances that serve as coloring agents in plant foods. Also be sure to include at least one serving per day of a cruciferous vegetable (like broccoli, cabbage, or cauliflower). These vegetables contain other types of cancer-fighting chemicals.

Specific Foods, Supplements, and Medications. Ongoing research into prostate cancer prevention has identified a number of individual substances that may be protective:

Lycopene. The carotenoid lycopene is found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon. Cooked tomato products such as spaghetti sauce and ketchup are the richest source.

Pomegranates. Pomegranates and pomegranate juice have recently been found to cause prostate cancer cells to self destruct. Among men with prostate cancer, daily glasses of pomegranate juice have slowed the increase in PSA levels after treatment.

Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega- 3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat found abundantly in fatty fish (like salmon, sardines, tuna, and halibut) and fish oil. Flaxseeds, walnuts, and canola oil contain a weaker, but still beneficial, plant-based form of these healthful fats. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. Several studies have suggested that men who eat fish two or more times per week have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer.

Selenium and vitamin E. These two nutrients are being tested for their potential protective effects in SELECT (Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial) -- the largest clinical study ever launched about prostate cancer prevention, coordinated by the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Several smaller studies have shown benefits, but until the SELECT results are in, doctors recommend against taking large amounts of either nutrient. A multivitamin that includes both is the best bet for now.

Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating cell growth and has been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. The dietary sources of vitamin D include fortified milk and fatty fish. The way to boost your body's natural productin of vitamin D is to spend about 15 minutes a day (without sunscreen) in the sun.

Statins. Prostate cancer researchers are discovering the important role inflammation plays in the development of prostate cancer. High cholesterol levels also may increase the risk. The cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins tackle both problems. In a study that Johns Hopkins researchers participated in, men who took statins had half the risk of developing prostate cancer compared with nonusers.

NSAIDs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) also reduce inflammation and appear to lower the risk of prostate cancer. These medications target a protein called COX-2, which is believed to help prostate cancer cells spread.

Posted in Prostate Disorders on May 29, 2008

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