​Preventing Prostate Cancer: Foods That Help Protect Against Cancer

About Prostate Cancer

Each year, around 48,500 people assigned male at birth (people AMAB) in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer, making it the most prevalent cancer among the demographic. Over the past decade, the number of patients diagnosed with prostate cancer has increased, perhaps due to an increasingly ageing population.1 Apart from unpreventable risk factors such as age, hereditary gene mutations, race/ethnicity, and geography, several factors are avoidable, such as:2

  • Diet
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Chemical exposure
  • Inflammation of the prostate
  • Sexually transmitted infection
  • Vasectomy

Symptoms

Prostate cancer generally does not have symptoms. Most prostate tumours begin in the outer layer of the prostate, meaning that the tumour must be large enough to push the tube that excretes urine out of the body. This makes it very rare to cause symptoms. As a result, the following urinary tract symptoms are commonly observed, caused by prostate gland enlargement.1/3

  • passing urine more frequently, especially during the night
  • difficulty passing urine – this includes weaker flow, not emptying your bladder, and straining
  • needing to rush to the toilet
  • blood in your urine or semen

Treatment

Treatment for prostate cancer varies by case. Many people AMAB with prostate cancer will not need treatment. If treatment is required, the goal is to cure or manage the disease such that it has a minimal effect on daily life without reducing life expectancy. If cancer has spread to other parts of the body, or metastasized, sometimes the goal is not to cure but to prolong life and delay symptoms. For early-stage prostate cancer, common treatments include:

  • radical prostatectomy (removal of part, or all of the prostate), 
  • radiotherapy (using radiation to kill cancer cells), 
  • brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy as opposed to external), 
  • hormone therapy (preventing testosterone from reaching cancer cells, causing the tumour to shrink), 
  • transurethral resection (removal of excess prostate tissue blocking urine flow), 
  • high-intensity focused ultrasound (using ultrasonic waves to destroy tumour tissue), 
  • and cryotherapy (using extreme cold to freeze and destroy cancerous tissue); 
  • and for advanced prostate cancer, chemotherapy (using medicine, either oral or intravenous, to kill cancer cells) is more common.1/3

Preventing Prostate Cancer

Several studies have found that adopting a healthy diet and active lifestyle reduced key risk factors for prostate cancer. An 11-day study found that men who followed the Pritikin program (a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and very low in fat) with 60 minutes of daily exercise had a decrease in serum IGF-I (insulin-like growth factor). IGF-I is associated with a higher risk of various cancers, including prostate cancer.4 So, a balanced diet and exercise can have a profound effect.

Foods

A well-balanced diet will improve your overall health and reduce your risk of mental conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. There is also some evidence that some foods may slow prostate cancer progression or reduce the likelihood of recurrence after treatment.

It is better to eat a well-balanced diet than taking supplements.5 It is good to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, as they contain vitamins, minerals, fibre and various cancer-fighting phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, lycopene, indoles, and flavonols. Following are several foods that may help reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Evidence has shown that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, and bok choy may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.6-9 Whilst the cause is still unknown, researchers suggest that phytochemicals in these vegetables target and kill cancer cells selectively while keeping the normal cell unaffected.10 

Those who consumed three or more servings of cruciferous vegetables per week had a 41% lower risk of prostate cancer than men who consumed less than one serving per week.11 Start now by attempting to consume more fruits and vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables, and try to reach the target of three or more servings a week.

Tomatoes and Lycopene

Several studies have shown that eating tomatoes can help prevent prostate cancer and aggressive prostate cancer. A 2016 review found that increased tomato consumption resulted in a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which inhibits the growth and spread of prostate cancer. 

Boiled or processed tomatoes, such as tomato sauces, soups, mashed potatoes, and pastes, are better sources of lycopene than fresh tomatoes. This is because lycopene is more readily absorbed by the body after being cooked or processed with a little oil. Other fruits contain lycopene, including watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, and papaya. Eat them regularly to maintain the level of lycopene in your body.7-10,12

Soy products

Isoflavones in whole soy foods may block hormone-like compounds that can promote inflammation, and help kill prostate cancer cells. A 2016 study found that isoflavones may provide health benefits in several ways, including preventing prostate cancer. If you decide to eat more soy, you can try soy milk and yoghurt, tofu, soy bread, miso, and tempeh. Try to avoid products with added salt and sugar.6-10,13

Fibre

A diet high in fibre is especially helpful for patients with prostate cancer. Fibres can bind to toxic and carcinogenic compounds, which can then be eliminated from the body. A high-fibre diet helps reduce hormone levels possibly involved in prostate cancer progression. If you want to consume more fibre, choose whole-grain bread rather than white bread. Always check the label before buying foods, and aim for whole grains such as oats, barley, quinoa, amaranth, bulgur, and millet in your diet.6-10,14

Coffee & Tea

Some research suggests that the chemicals in green tea can protect against the development of prostate cancer and advanced prostate cancer. In a population study published in 2008, researchers looked at data from 49,920 men (ages 40 to 69) and found that green tea consumption was associated with a reduced risk of end-stage prostate cancer. If you decide to drink green tea, you will need to steep it for five minutes to release many nutrients, making the flavour quite strong.15-16 

A 2016 review on the effects of coffee on cancer risk has concluded that coffee and its antioxidant capacity can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer and other diseases. Thus, it is beneficial to drink three to four cups of coffee every day, but not too much, as high doses of caffeine can cause other major health problems. Furthermore, if you have urinary issues, avoid caffeine-containing products and choose decaffeinated green tea, as caffeine can irritate your bladder.10,17,18

Pomegranate juice

Pomegranates are a rich source of antioxidants that can help prevent chronic diseases related to oxidative stress. The American National Cancer Institute states that pomegranate juice and its bioactive components can help inhibit prostate cancer cell proliferation. Animal and test-tube studies have shown that pomegranate juice and extracts inhibit the production of some prostate cancer cells, although more research is needed in humans.8,19

Dairy Products

There is some evidence that a high-fat diet increases testosterone levels, with testosterone associated with prostate cancer growth. Several studies indicate a positive association between consuming saturated fats from meat and dairy products and prostate cancer. However, this does not mean that fats should be eliminated from the diet. Fats play an important role in our bodies but should be consumed in moderation, especially the consumption of red meat and dairy products, as they have been associated with an increased risk of metastatic prostate cancer.20-21 Therefore, try to reduce the consumption of red meat, milk, cheese, and other dairy products. Limit butter, mayonnaise, baked goods, and salad dressings, often because they are high in saturated and total fat. Consider rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, or salsa as alternative dressings.

Fish and Omega-3

Preventing prostate cancer and slowing its development may be done by taking omega-3 fatty acids. They induce cell death, prevent cancer cell initiation, and compete with arachidonic acid (which was found to stimulate prostate cancer cell growth) to help limit the damage. Good food sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish, such as salmon, trout, herring, sardines, flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, and canola oil. Researchers discovered that men who ate cold-water fish three to four times a week had a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Therefore, to obtain enough omega-3 fatty acids, it may be a good idea to eat fish at least twice a week.6

Sugar

Sugar consumption should be limited. This is as sugar appears to increase serum insulin and IGF-I levels, which can stimulate the growth of prostate cancer cells.6 Avoid sweets such as candy, cookies, cakes and pies, and limit your intake of refined flour products.

Exercise

For all people, exercise is beneficial for overall health. It can help you maintain a healthy weight by burning off excess energy that the body can store as fat. Exercise is essential for prostate health and to fight disease.5,22 Try various activities or sports, so you don't get bored at first and set goals for yourself. You may enjoy exercising with a friend or in a group.

Summary

In general, try to eat a well-balanced diet and maintain an active lifestyle to prevent prostate cancer. We hope you can take some of the following key points after reading this article.

  • Consume a primarily plant-based diet
  • Have plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables
  • Choose whole-grain versions of cereals, bread and pasta where possible
  • Less fat is better, especially saturated fat, but fish is good
  • Limit the intake of simple sugars

References:

  1. Prostate cancer | Cancer Research UK [Internet]. Cancerresearchuk.org. 22 May 2019 [cited 9 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/prostate-cancer
  2. Prostate Cancer Risk Factors [Internet]. Cancer.org. [cited 9 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html
  3. Prostate cancer [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2021 [cited 9 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/prostate-cancer/
  4. Barnard R, Ngo T, Leung P, Aronson W, Golding L. A low-fat diet and/or strenuous exercise alters the IGF axis in vivo and reduces prostate tumor cell growth in vitro. The Prostate. 2003;56(3):201-206.
  5. Diet, exercise and prostate cancer [Internet]. Cambridgeurologypartnership.co.uk. 2010 [cited 9 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.cambridgeurologypartnership.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/TPCC-diet.pdf
  6. Nutrition and Prostate Cancer [Internet]. ucsfhealth.org. [cited 9 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/nutrition-and-prostate-cancer
  7. Allarakha S, Uttekar P. What Foods Kill Prostate Cancer? [Internet]. Medicinenet.com. 2021 [cited 9 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.medicinenet.com/what_foods_kill_prostate_cancer/article.htm
  8. Prostate Cancer UK [Internet]. Prostate Cancer UK. 2022 [cited 9 February 2022]. Available from: https://prostatecanceruk.org
  9. Five Foods to Protect your Prostate [Internet]. Prostate Cancer Foundation. [cited 9 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.pcf.org/c/five-foods-to-protect-your-prostate/
  10. Marcin A. Prostate Health: 6 Foods to Eat [Internet]. Healthline. 2021 [cited 9 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/prostate-cancer/foods-for-prostate-health
  11. Cohen J, Kristal A, Stanford J. Fruit and Vegetable Intakes and Prostate Cancer Risk. JNCI Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2000;92(1):61-68.
  12. Rowles J, Ranard K, Applegate C, Jeon S, An R, Erdman J. Processed and raw tomato consumption and risk of prostate cancer: a systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis. Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases. 2018;21(3):319-336.
  13. Zhang H, Cui J, Zhang Y, Wang Z, Chong T, Wang Z. Isoflavones and Prostate Cancer. Chinese Medical Journal. 2016;129(3):341-347.
  14. Sawada N, Iwasaki M, Yamaji T, Shimazu T, Sasazuki S, Inoue M et al. Fiber intake and risk of subsequent prostate cancer in Japanese men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014;101(1):118-125.
  15. Kurahashi N, Sasazuki S, Iwasaki M, Inoue M. Green Tea Consumption and Prostate Cancer Risk in Japanese Men: A Prospective Study. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2007;167(1):71-77.
  16. Wong C. 4 Natural Remedies for Prostate Cancer Prevention [Internet]. Verywell Health. 2020 [cited 9 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/natural-prostate-cancer-prevention-88911
  17. Wang A, Wang S, Zhu C, Huang H, Wu L, Wan X et al. Coffee and cancer risk: A meta-analysis of prospective observational studies. Scientific Reports. 2016;6(1).
  18. Harris S. Prostate cancer prevention: Natural ways to lower your risk [Internet]. Medicalnewstoday.com. 2018 [cited 9 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322795
  19. Prostate Cancer, Nutrition, and Dietary Supplements (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version [Internet]. National Cancer Institute. 2022 [cited 9 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/prostate-supplements-pdq#link/_162
  20. Michaud D, Augustsson K, Rimm E, Stampfer M, Willett W, Giovannucci E. Cancer Causes and Control. 2001;12(6):557-567.
  21. Rohrmann S, Platz E, Kavanaugh C, Thuita L, Hoffman S, Helzlsouer K. Meat and dairy consumption and subsequent risk of prostate cancer in a US cohort study. Cancer Causes & Control. 2007;18(1):41-50.
  22. Prostate Cancer: Exercise and Activity [Internet]. ZERO - The End of Prostate Cancer. [cited 9 February 2022]. Available from: https://zerocancer.org/learn/current-patients/maintain-qol/exercise-and-activity/

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Yuting Jiang

Master of Science in Pharmacy - UCL (University College London)
Dynamic Master of Pharmacy student driven by a passion for providing high-quality patient care. Engaged in rigorous programmes of professional development, refining a myriad of skills, including data, analytical, and numerical. Gained excellent multi-lingual communication skills used to great effect in developing strong, multidisciplinary relationships and in the confident presentation of research findings both verbally and in writing.

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