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  • Joanna Injore

Prostate Cancer: Can Nutrition Make a Difference?

When it comes to prostate cancer, many factors can influence its development and progression. One such factor that is often overlooked is nutrition. The food we eat plays a crucial role in our overall health, including the health of the prostate. In this blog post, written by an oncology dietitian, we will explore the relationship between prostate cancer and nutrition, and how making changing to our diet can make a difference.


Diet and Prostate Cancer: How Nutrition Plays a Role


prostate cancer dietitian

It's fascinating to see how what we eat can have a significant impact on our health. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting 1 in 8 men and if you’re over 50, or if you are African-Caribbean or African descent, or your dad or brother had it, you’re at even higher risk 1. While we cannot change our genetics or turn back the clock on our age we can improve our diet.


We know that being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing prostate cancer, particularly advanced and more aggressive prostate cancer. So keeping to a healthy weight is recommended. This means keeping your body mass index (BMI) to 18.5kg/22- 24.9kg/m2. However, we know BMI can be less reliable for some groups (i.e. if you have a lot of muscle, older people and some ethnic minority groups) but it is a useful guideline of checking your weight. 


Optimal Nutrients for Prostate Health


There are often a few nutrients that are talked about when it comes to prostate health, such as selenium, lycopene, vitamin D and Vitamin E.



prostate cancer dietitian vitamins

Selenium


Selenium is a trace mineral meaning that it is only needed in the body in small amounts. It is needed in lots of processes in the body for example in chemical processes and supporting your immune system. In the 1960’s there were a few studies that showed people with high levels of selenium in their diet had a lower risk of cancer and some lab studies showed selenium stopped cancer cells from growing. This has led to the thought that selenium supplements may be helpful. However a large Cochrane study in 2018 2 reviewed all this data and concluded that there was not enough evidence to show selenium prevents prostate cancer. Selenium is found naturally in Brazil nuts, fish, and whole grains which are good choices to include in your diet rather than supplements.


Lycopene


Lycopene is an antioxant and it is the natural substance that give tomatoes, watermelon, and grapefruit their colour. Again lab studies has shown lycopene can reduce prostate cancer but does this apply to humans? A large study looked into this further and found that showed that men who ate a large amount (5-6 times a week) of cooked or canned tomatoes also had a lower risk of prostate cancer. However other similar studies have not showed the same results.3 So I would suggest if you enjoy cooked tomatoes include them in your diet as it also counts as one of your vegetable intake.


Vitamin E


Vitamin E is a popular antioxidant often used in skin products. There has been some studies looking into vitamin E supplements and prostate cancer but unfortunately no reliable evidence that it helps in slowing prostate cancer growth. It is also harmful in large amounts so avoid taking any supplements. Including food which are high in Vitamin E is a better ideas so aim for nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables. It is also found in vegetable oil, like rapeseed oil but try not to use too much in cooking!


Vitamin D


Vitamin D is made naturally in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight, and it is also found in food such as egg yolks, oily fish and food which have added vitamin D (e.g. breakfast cereal). Again, there is no reliable evidence to suggest vitamin D supplement to prevent prostate cancer but Vitamin D is important to include in your diet (read more here). This is the only supplement you may need to take in the Winter months or some groups may need to take it all year round as we do not get enough sunlight in the UK. Find out more here



Cruciferous vegetables


does broccoli reduce cancer risk

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage are a good source of vitamins (Vitamins C, E, K and folates) and minerals, carotenoids (a type of antioxidant) and fibre. They also contain a compound called glucosinolates which are sulphur-containing chemical this gives these vegetables their distinctive bitter flavour and taste. Research in men has showed those that eat 3 or more portions of broccoli or cruciferous vegetables weekly have a reduced risk of cancer 4. Prostate cancer has been studied in men with early signs of prostate cancer and there were promising results. I go into more about this in my blog all about broccoli. More research in this area is definitely needed!


You could try adding some of these nutrients into your diet which will make you meals more tasty and varied so no need for the supplements!



The Importance of Water Intake


Hydration might not be the first thing that springs to mind when considering prostate health, but it plays an important role. Adequate water intake helps prevent your urine from becoming too concentrated, which can irritatie to the bladder and prostate areas.


Drinking enough water – around 8-10 cups daily can help flushing out toxins but also supports the overall function of your prostate and prevents you from dehydration which can lead to feeling tiredness.

It’s easy to overlook, but staying well-hydrated is a simple yet effective way to contribute to prostate health. Remember to keep your water bottles with you and drink throughout the day.


What about dairy?


The research in dairy and prostate cancer is not conclusive. A meta-analysis (a study that gathers research from several studies) in 2005 reported that men who had a diet higher in dairy and calcium had a greater risk of prostate cancer. However another meta-analysis in 2008 found no evidence 3. As a result, The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF)* suggests there is limited evidence that a high calcium diet increases the risk of developing prostate cancer. So, there is no need to completely cut dairy from your diet, just make sure you don’t go over you daily needs.

As a result, The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF)* suggests there is limited evidence that a high calcium diet increases the risk of developing prostate cancer. So, there is no need to completely cut dairy from your diet, just make sure you don’t go over you daily needs.  


Men need 700mg of calcium daily to meet their needs which can be achieved with having 3 portions of calcium each day. If you do choose to limit dairy in your diet, make sure you replace it with non-dairy alternatives (e.g. soya, oat, almond milk) which has calcium added and include other sources of calcium regularly e.g. nuts, green leafy vegetables, tinned fish with bones- salmon. 


If you want more guidance on nutrition to reduce you risk of cancer check out this article




If you found this helpful but want more personalised nutrition advice get in touch



References:

4 Liu, B., et al., Cruciferous vegetables intake and risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis. Int J Urol, 2012. 19(2):p. 134-41.

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