PREVENTING PROSTATE CANCER*
What is the Prostate?
The prostate is a small gland located underneath the urinary bladder in men. It is about the size of a walnut. The urethra (the tube that carries the urine out of the bladder) passes through it. The prostate produces some of the fluid that mixes with sperm during ejaculation. It can become enlarged, benign prostatic hyperplasia, as described in detail in my April 2010 newsletter Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia - Lifestyle and Herbal Treatments.
What is Prostate Cancer?
Cancer results when the cells in the prostate multiply and grow out of control to form a mass or tumour.
Some tumours remain small and grow so slowly that they cause no problems for the rest of that man’s life. Others are aggressive (especially in younger men), grow rapidly, become life threatening and, untreated, may result in death. Unfortunately, many who receive treatment also die.
How Common is Prostate Cancer?
According to www.cancersa.org.au, the most common cancer in Australia in 2006 was prostate cancer (17,444 new cases), and thus the most common cancer in men. The most common cancer in females was breast cancer (12,614 new cases). Prostate cancer was the second cause of cancer deaths in males (2,952) after lung cancer (4,665).
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, it was projected that 20,000 Australian men would be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011, and some 3,300 would die from it.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
The main symptoms are:
- Difficulty in passing urine
- Inability to urinate
- Frequent passing of urine, especially at night
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- Pain when passing urine
- Blood in the urine
- Pain in the lower back, hips and upper thighs.
However, ALL of these symptoms can also be caused by such conditions as benign prostatic hyperplasia. Professional advice should be sought if any of the above symptoms persist.
It is generally stated that there is no known cause for prostate cancer. There may be a genetic component, since between 5% and 10% of cases have a family history.
Prostate cancer is rare in men under 50 years. The risk increases after age 50, with half of all cases occurring in men over 70.
However, much research has implicated many diet and lifestyle factors in the development of prostate cancer, and these are discussed below under “Preventing Prostate Cancer”.
Tests for Prostate Cancer
A number of different tests are used to help diagnose prostate cancer, and include digital rectal examination, PSA blood test, ultrasound, biopsy and X-rays.
Treatment of Prostate Cancer
Sometimes prostate cancers are so slow growing that no treatment, apart from ‘watchful waiting’, is needed. Regular monitoring is required.
When treatment is necessary, there are four main types, namely surgery, radiotherapy, brachytherapy (radioactive pellets inserted directly into the tumour) and hormone therapy.
Two newer treatments may also be considered: cryotherapy (freezing the tumour) and High Intensity Focussed Ultrasound (HIFU).
In all treatments there is a significant risk of side effects, both long-term and short-term. These include impotence, urinary incontinence and infertility in younger men.
Prostate cancer need not be a death sentence. Early diagnosis is important.
Preventing Prostate Cancer
In the prevention of disease, including cancer, the seven requirements for health are fundamental. These are set out in detail in Chapter 2 of my book How to Live to100+ Years Free from Symptoms and Disease (see home page). They include a healthy diet, clean air and pure water, exercise, sunlight, adequate rest and good sleep, as well as positive mental attitudes and relationships.
The ideal diet, in general terms, is one that contains mainly foods that are alkali-forming and these should comprise 75-80% of the dietary intake. This is discussed in detail in my September 2005 newsletter Acid/Alkali Balance - The Ideal Diet and my March 2009 newsletter Foods for Health.
The following are strategies, mainly to do with foods but also lifestyle, which should be embraced for the prevention of cancer. Some of these have been taken from the work of Dr Joel Fuhrman (www.drfuhrman.com).
- Alkali-Forming Foods
75-80% of the foods consumed should be alkali-forming. Cancer cells do not thrive in an alkali-environment. The newsletter referred to above contains six tables of foods that are high, moderate and low alkali-forming and low, moderate and high acid-forming. In brief, all animal foods are acid-forming, and all fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains (unprocessed), beans, lentils and legumes are alkali-forming.
- Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, kale, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage) contain phytochemicals that assist the body to detoxify carcinogens. Men who consumed three or more half-cup servings of cruciferous vegetables per week were 41% less likely to develop prostate cancer. (See my October 2008 newsletter Cruciferous Vegetables.)
- Animal Protein
It is widely recognised that a high consumption of animal protein has been linked to a greater risk of prostate cancer. Animal foods are acid-forming foods. Greater consumption of red meats, poultry and to a lesser extent fish is associated with higher blood levels of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1), which is positively correlated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.
- Plant Protein
Plant protein, especially from legumes, is protective and is associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer.
A study of over 40,000 men revealed that those who consumed the most tomato-based foods (including cooked tomatoes and tomato sauce) reduced their total risk of prostate cancer by 35% and their risk of advanced prostate cancer by 50%. This is due to the lycopene content of tomatoes, especially when cooked. Tomatoes also contain other protective phytochemicals. (See my December 2009 newsletter Lycopene - A Powerful Antioxidant and my January 2010 newsletter Phytochemicals.)
- Allium Vegetables
Allium vegetables (including onions, garlic leeks, chives and shallots) have organosulphur compounds with anti-cancer effects, and are associated with reduced prostate cancer risk. (See my September 2011 newsletter Allium Vegetables.)
- Yellow/Orange Vegetables
Consumption of orange vegetables, including carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and corn was also found to be inversely related to prostate cancer.
- Dairy Foods
There is substantial evidence indicating that men who avoid dairy products are at a lower risk for prostate cancer. High intake of dairy protein and calcium from dairy products and high serum concentrations of IGF-1 have been shown to be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer (Diet and cancer prevention- EPIC study, European Journal of Cancer, 2010.)
Zinc is an important mineral in the health of the prostate. The power of zinc lies in its ability to cause prostate cancer cell death. In one study of 525 men with prostate cancer, those who consumed the most zinc (15.7mg daily) were shown to have 74% reduction in risk of death as compared to men who consumed less than 12.8mg of zinc daily. (See my January 2009 newsletter Zinc.)
- Vitamin D
The importance of vitamin D in health is being increasingly recognised in recent years. Accumulating research shows that insufficient vitamin D levels in the blood are associated with an increased risk of several cancers, including prostate cancer. Sun exposure stimulates the body to produce vitamin D and is the ideal way to obtain this vitamin. If sun exposure is limited, an oral supplement of vitamin D may be required, especially if blood levels are shown to be low. (See my November 2007 newsletter Sunlight and Health.)
- Folate and Folic Acid
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, one of the B vitamins. Folic acid supplementation has been associated with increased risk of prostate cancer. Food folate, however, is associated with decreased risk. Green vegetables and beans are an excellent source of folate.
Exercise, particularly endurance-type exercise such as walking, running, cycling and swimming, are effective forms of disease protection. Three hours of exercise per week, or more, is ideal. In one study, men who reported vigorous exercise for at least three hours per week had 61% lower risk of prostate cancer-specific death. Not only does exercise help prevent prostate cancer, but it can also slow the progression of the cancer. Exercise is also protective against other cancers, especially colorectal cancer.
- Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Selenium
These are antioxidants and are protective against all cancers, including prostate cancer. They should be taken as supplements, daily. (See my January 2007 newsletter Free Radicals – Antioxidants.)
Prevention is better than having to undergo treatment for established disease. There is much that can be done to minimise the development of cancer, and even to prevent it from occurring. This newsletter has focussed on the prevention of prostate cancer. It should be read in conjunction with two of my newsletters:
- March 2008 Prevention of Cancer. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer.
- January 2011 Preventing Cancer - Global Report Recommendations.
*Copyright 2012: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
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