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Prostate Cancer Prevention

The topic of cancer prevention has become a major issue as people become more aware of disease and live longer and longer. Many cancers are associated with ageing and prostate cancer is no exception.


Certain events within the cells have been identified which can lead to prostate cancer initiation. These include:


  • Increasing levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in prostate glands of men over forty years of age.
  • Increasing numbers of genetic mutations in the DNA of prostate cells of ageing men.
  • The presence of carcinogens from our environment in contact with the cells.
  • The accumulation of free radicals. These are poisonous waste products of cell metabolism that contribute to ageing and cancer genesis. Free radicals impair the immune system and the cells ability to heal itself.


One can alter some of these factors by following a healthy life style and eating the correct foods. Many studies have shown that certain factors can reduce the incidence of prostate cancer. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that 20% of cancers in developing countries are diet related.


Certain foods contain substances that can lower the levels of free radicals in the body.


Carotenoids: Lycopene, a red pigment is a carotenoid found in tomatoes, guavas, red grapefruit and watermelon. It is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants mop up free radicals. Cooked tomatoes are the most important source of lycopenes.


Garlic: Contains many sulphur compounds that scavenge free radicals.


Selenium: This is a trace element found in seafood, nuts, rice and wheat. It is important in activating glutathione peroxidase, a free radical scavenger that protects the DNA.


Vitamin E: This is tocopherol, an antioxidant found in vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts and eggs. It appears to have substantial protective effects against prostate cancer. Tocopherol inhibits malignant transformation and stimulates the immune system. It is currently being investigated along with selenium in a major prostate cancer prevention trial.


Other foods modulate cancer development by alternative means.


Soy Products: These contain high concentrations of isoflavones. These chemicals inhibit the development of prostate cancer cells by modulating various cell receptors that are involved in tumour genesis.


Vitamin D: Traditionally this vitamin is deficient in Western diets. Vitamin D inhibits the growth and invasiveness of cancer cells.


Fibre: High fibre diets for some reason are associated with lower blood levels of oestrogen and testosterone. Both these hormones play an important role in prostate cancer.


High fat intake and obesity are strongly linked with prostate cancer development. Obesity itself does not directly cause prostate cancer but the lifestyle that leads to obesity is important in increasing the risks of prostate cancer. Certain observations have been made concerning fat consumption.

  • Animal fats are low in tocopherols and high in unsaturated fats. This creates a highly oxidative environment.
  • Tumour growth and metastases are influenced by omega 6 fatty acids (prevalent in animal fats) and inhibited by omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as pilchards, sardines, tuna, mackerel and salmon.
  • A high fat diet leads to increased serum levels of androgens.


Evidence is starting to accumulate that homeopathic medication such as saw palmetto, ginseng, reishi and other products may have anticancer properties.


Five alpha reductase inhibitors are compounds used to shrink prostate glands that have enlarged. These drugs prevent the formation of DHT. A large clinical trial has shown conclusively that taking this type of medication significantly reduces the risk of developing a prostate cancer. However there can be side effects so before taking this medication, it should be discussed with an urologist.


Regular Sex: A recent Australian study has shown that men who ejaculate regularly have a lower incidence of prostate cancer. It is hypothesised that regular ejaculation clears out any carcinogens from the prostatic ducts.


So after reading about all these different substances what can you do to reduce the risk of prostate cancer occurring or slow the growth of one already present?


  • Maintain a healthy weight and exercise daily.
  • Reduce the animal fat intake but include oily fish at least twice a week in your diet. Other sources of good fats include nuts, seeds and low fat dairy products. Margarine is a bad source of fat and should be avoided. Also grill or steam foods instead of frying; remove all visible fat and skin from meat products; and avoid fast foods. Fast foods are cheap to make and contain cheap fat to make them tasty so that you will buy them.
  • Limit the foods that contain carcinogens such as highly processed foods, smoked and cured foods and pickled foods.
  • Add soya products to your diet. (The Asian countries have a high soya consumption and they have a low incidence of prostate cancer). 
  • Eat at least five servings of raw fruit and vegetables a day. Good fruits include citrus products, berries, pineapple, guavas, water melon and red grapes. Examples of excellent vegetables are broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brusselsprouts.
  • Increase your fibre intake by eating more whole grain products, fruit and vegetables.
  • Include garlic in your diet
  • Eat cooked tomato products as often as possible. Examples are tomato sauce, tomato paste, pizza topping, tomato soup, baked beans, ratatouille etc.
  • Eat mushrooms. They contain substances to prevent many tumours including prostate cancer.
  • Remember to have regular sex or masturbate.
  • Lastly do not forget the doctor. Have regular screening exams for prostate cancer and enquire about the use of a five alpha reductase inhibitors especially if you have a strong genetic predisposition to develop the cancer.

See Screening