For the month of November, men across the country are growing mustaches to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues such as prostate cancer. In my practice, men of all ages are coming in and seeking guidance about how they can prevent this disease. The good news is that there is a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting that prostate cancer can be prevented.
Know your risk – Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men and is the third leading cause of death among Canadian men. And those of African or Caribbean descent are 65% more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men in their lifetime.
Screening – The PSA or prostate specific antigen test and a DRE or digital rectal exam are the primary tools used to screen for prostate cancer and both of these tests can be done with your naturopathic doctor. Screening should begin in all men at 50 years of age – usually the standard is to have the prostate checked each year. However, if you fall into one of the higher risk groups such as having a close family relative with prostate cancer or breast cancer, your screening for this disease should begin at age 40. Men of Afro-Caribbean descent fall into this high risk group as well.
What can you do? Although susceptibility to this disease may be partly inherited, experts believe the disease is strongly linked to environmental factors such as your diet. It is thought that your lifestyle choices account for up to 80 percent of your risk.
Reduce your consumption of red meat - A recent study determined that the consumption of 2.5 servings of pan-fried red meat can increase your risk of prostate cancer by 40%. The frying of meat creates a chemical that is carcinogenic (ie. Cancer- causing).
Be moderate with alcohol – A 2009 study published in the journal Cancer, found that heavy drinking, especially when it is beer, increases the risk for highly aggressive prostate cancer. Most prostate cancer is slow growing so this is concerning.
Tomatoes and Lycopene - The risk for prostate cancer is lower in men who have higher levels of lycopene in their blood. Studies suggest that diets rich in tomatoes may account for this reduction in risk. Other food sources of lycopene include apricots, guava, watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit although tomatoes contain the highest levels. Keep in mind that your body absorbs lycopene from cooked tomatoes better than from raw.
Vegan diet – In one study published in the journal of urology, men with early stage prostate cancer who adopted a vegan diet consisting primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes were able to reverse and in some cases stop the progression of their illness. A vegan diet is not suitable for everyone but eating more fruits and vegetables – at least 5 to 7 servings daily, certainly is. Make half your plate vegetables at every meal, to start.
Walnuts – Interestingly enough, the prostate is shaped like a walnut and walnuts should definitely be included in a prostate-friendly diet since some studies in mice have shown that eating a diet rich in walnuts can reduce the size and growth rate of prostate cancer cells.
Vitamin E – Is a major antioxidant and has been shown to protect and repair our body cells from damage. In a study in Finnish men that took place over 4 years, vitamin E cut the risk of prostate cancer by 33%. The typical supplement has 400IU of vitamin E per capsule, but it’s important to get your dose individualized by your Naturopathic Doctor. Foods that are high in vitamin E include – Sunflower seeds, almonds, and pine nuts.
Vitamin D - The sunshine vitamin that is actually a steroid hormone. Because prostate cancers tend to be slow-growing, exposure to sunlight in your early years to midlife may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Get your levels checked to determine how much you should be taking. Some foods high in Vitamin D include eggs and fish.
Selenium – A trace micronutrient that is another important protector of cellular damage. We would normally get selenium when produce absorb it from the soil, but most of North American soil is low in selenium. Some studies show that humans, who live in areas where selenium is low in the soil, have higher rates of cancer. In one study, after 10 years, the risk of developing prostate cancer was 49% lower in the group prescribed selenium. The typical dose is 200mcg/day, but as usual get this dose individualized by your ND. Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, shellfish and liver are all good sources of selenium.