There are a host of things that may increase your risk and others that may decrease your likelihood of prostate cancer, regardless of your family history.
What may increase the risk of prostate cancer? Contributing factors include obesity and consuming animal fat. Equally as important, factors that may reduce risk include vegetables, especially cruciferous, and tomato sauce or cooked tomatoes.
According to a review of the literature, obesity may slightly decrease the risk of nonaggressive prostate cancer, yet increase risk of aggressive disease. Don’t think this means that obesity has protective effects. It’s quite the contrary.
The authors attribute the lower incidence of nonaggressive prostate cancer to the possibility that it is more difficult to detect the disease in obese men, since larger prostates make biopsies less effective. What the results tell us is that those who are obese have a greater risk of dying from prostate cancer when it is diagnosed.
There is a direct effect between the amount of animal fat we consume and incidence of prostate cancer. In the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, those who consumed the highest amount of animal fat had a 63 percent increased risk, compared to those who consumed the least.
Here is the kicker: It was not just the percent increase that was important, but the fact that it was an increase in advanced or metastatic prostate cancer. Also, in this study, red meat had an even greater, approximately 2.5-fold, increased risk of advanced disease.
In another large, prospective observational study, the authors concluded that red and processed meats increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer through heme iron, barbecuing/grilling and nitrate/nitrite content.
Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil may increase the risk of prostate cancer, according to unexpected findings in the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. It showed that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a form of omega-3 fatty acid, increased the risk of high-grade disease 2.5-fold.
If you choose to eat fish, unsalted salmon or sardines in water are among the best choices.
Lycopene — found in tomato sauce
Tomato sauce has been shown to potentially reduce the risk of prostate cancer. It is believed that lycopene, a type of carotenoid found in tomatoes, is central to this benefit. Note that you need to cook the tomatoes to release lycopene.
In a prospective study involving 47,365 men followed for 12 years, prostate cancer risk was reduced by 16 percent with higher lycopene intake from a variety of sources. When the authors looked at tomato sauce alone, they saw a reduction in risk of 23 percent when comparing those who consumed at least two servings a week to those who consumed less than one serving a month.
The reduction in severe, or metastatic, prostate cancer risk was even greater, at 35 percent. There was a statistically significant reduction in risk with a very modest amount of tomato sauce. Several follow-up studies have shown similar results.
Although tomato sauce may be beneficial, many brands are loaded with salt. I recommend to patients that they either make their own or purchase a sauce with no salt.
Vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, reduce the risk of prostate cancer significantly. In a case-control study, participants who consumed at least three servings of cruciferous vegetables per week, versus those who consumed less than one per week, saw a 41 percent reduction in prostate cancer risk.
What’s even more impressive is the effect was twice that of tomato sauce, yet the intake was similarly modest. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, kale and arugula, to name a few.
When it comes to preventing prostate cancer, lifestyle modification, including making dietary changes, can reduce your risk significantly.