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Diet and Prostate Cancer

Lycopene ] Selenium ] Soy ] Cholesterol ] Green Tea ] Milken's Prostate Cancer Guide ]

As the effects of a single type of food on the body are influenced by the combination of other foods in the diet, it is likely that a balanced, varied diet can offer us some protection against cancer, rather than just relying on one or two particular foods or supplements.

  • Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods
  • Eat plenty of breads and cereals (preferably wholegrain), dark colored vegetables (including legumes) and fruits
  • Eat a diet low in fat and, in particular, low in saturated fat
  • Maintain a healthy body weight by balancing physical activity and food intake
  • If you drink alcohol, limit your intake
  • Eat none to only a moderate amount of processed sugars and foods containing added sugars
  • Choose low salt foods and use salt sparingly
  • Eat foods containing calcium (particularly important for men with advancing prostate cancer)


These Guidelines can help us to assess alternative diets and avoid unhealthy outcomes. In general, they are just as suitable for multiple morbidities (e.g.. heart and prostate). The most successful diet will be that which meets all our needs, including being easy to stick to, being palatable and being inexpensive (in time and money).

In most cases, indulgences (e.g. cakes, chocolates, pastries) should be limited to 2 serves a day. Care should be exercised if overweight, while men with advanced cancer can indulge freely.

Saturated fats have been related with cancer in many population studies, and saturated fats from animal products seem to be implicated most significantly. In the vegetable fats, the polyunsaturated oils appear to have been associated with prostate cancer, while monounsaturated oils have the most favorable reports. Some fats are needed (e.g. to enable the intake of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K) but we reduce the odds of developing cancer if we limit our fat intake.

Testosterone has a protective effect for bone, which is why men generally have a lower incidence of osteoporosis than women. However, where treatment for prostate cancer lowers testosterone (as in hormone therapy or orchiectomy) the risk of osteoporosis in these men increases significantly. They should boost their calcium intake through appropriate low fat dairy products.

It is important to have at least 7 serves of fruit and vegetables each day. In addition to the well known benefits (e.g. the fiber, minerals and vitamins mentioned in food composition tables), research is showing that other phytochemicals (i.e. chemicals in plants) play vital roles in nutrition. For example, lycopene, the carotenoid found in tomatoes, is probably preventive for prostate cancer, and a range of other anti-oxidants in fruits also reinforce the effect of vitamins. Recent research suggests that eating the whole fruit or vegetable is significantly more beneficial than just supplementing your diet with lycopene.  Tomatoes cooked with olive oil, such as in spaghetti sauce, seem to be the most beneficial.

Selenium and vitamin E may help prevent prostate cancer. Dr's. Clark, Myers, Strum and others suggest daily doses up to 200IJg of selenium for prostate cancer. Others believe the recommended daily intake of selenium for men should be available from food grown in the soils of developed countries. Metabolites of vitamin D may inhibit prostate cancer, but optimal dosage, effects of long-term use and toxicity are unknown. The isoflavones in soy, particularly genistein, do appear to reduce the proliferation of prostate cancer cells. Men with prostate cancer may decide to take these as supplements. However doctors are not yet sure of the safety and efficacy of any supplements. Evidence is not available.

Cancer News
November 10, 2004
"Too much" vitamin e defined as 400 IU a day or more

There is little concern that average eaters in developed countries digest adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals since so many of our processed foods are fortified, containing all of the B-vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, iron, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, and lots of high quality protein.

Present evidence suggests that the protective effects of fruit and vegetables outweigh the adverse effects of red meat in the development of cancer. However, the Western diet is imbalanced, often making meat the focus of the meal. While eliminating red meats might be ideal, it would be a decent second alternative to look at meat as something to be added to dishes mostly made up of vegetables and grains. When cooking meat, remember that high temperatures or conditions that cause it to char (like barbequing, grilling and broiling) will form carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds called heterocyclic aromatic amines.

If we wish to use the alternatives to red meat, a combination of vegetable products can provide all the building blocks of protein that we need, including the essential amino acids the body cannot manufacture on its own. To assure an adequate supply, however, vegetarians need liberal amounts of vegetable protein from sources such as beans and soy products. It is also important to get generous amounts of starches from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; oils low in saturated fats; and nuts and seeds.

Diet can help during medical treatments, making our responses more positive, helping us to tolerate the treatment, aiding in the repair of tissues, and boosting the immune system. Since different treatments require different diets, be sure to ask your doctor what you should and shouldn't be eating before, during and after treatment and for how long and in what quantity.

So what is the relationship between diet and cancer? Simply, diet may cause cancer, and diet may protect against cancer. However, it has not been shown that diet can cure cancer. Balance and moderation in eating habits plus regular exercise are the keys to better health outcomes for men with prostate cancer, just as they are for everyone.

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Lycopene ] Selenium ] Soy ] Cholesterol ] Green Tea ] Milken's Prostate Cancer Guide ]

information last updated on May, 2005

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