Vegetables: Which ones and how many?
Your mother was right about eating vegetables—they really are good for you. Just three servings of vegetables each day—especially cruciferous ones like broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower and brussels sprouts—cut the risk of prostate cancer by almost half, according to Hutchinson Center research. While all vegetables help decrease risk, cruciferous vegetables are the heavyweights.
It’s believed that vegetables protect against cancer because they contain a wide variety of phytochemicals, many of which increase enzyme activity to detoxify cancer-promoting compounds in the body.
The lowdown on fats
Men with early stage prostate cancer may benefit from a diet low in fat. Hutchinson Center findings show that while a fat-laden diet may not cause prostate cancer, it may fuel its progression from early to advanced disease. While there is no effective treatment for advanced prostate cancer, localized disease can be treated effectively.
The Department of Agriculture’s guidelines recommend:
- No more than 30 percent of total daily calories from fat.
- 65 grams of fat or less daily for a person who needs 2,000 calories a day.
Low-fat diets reduce blood levels of male hormones like testosterone. Prostate growth—and perhaps, prostate cancer—is fueled by male hormones. Read food labels to learn the fat content of your favorite foods and increase awareness of your fat intake.
Calcium is great, but not too much
Calcium intake does not appear to cause prostate cancer but may encourage its change from early to late-stage cancer. A Hutchinson Center study revealed that the risk of advanced-stage prostate cancer more than doubled among men who consumed more than 1,200 mg of calcium each day (equivalent to four or more glasses of milk). It’s thought that high calcium intake suppresses blood levels of the active form of vitamin D, a hormone thought to prevent the development of cancerous cells.
So how much calcium do you need? The answer is complex, because calcium helps strengthen bones and may reduce the risk of colon cancer. The U.S. Recommended Intake of calcium for men over 50 is 1,200 mg.
You've heard it a million times: Don't smoke!
Middle-aged men who are long-term, heavy smokers (at least a pack a day) face twice the risk of developing more aggressive forms of prostate cancer than men who have never smoked, according to a Hutchinson Center study. Smoking is thought to promote prostate cancer by increasing androgens, hormones that fuel the growth of normal and malig-nant prostate cells. Tobacco is a source of cadmium, a carcinogenic heavy metal linked to prostate cancer in several job-related health studies. Cadmium concentrates in the prostate and inhibits cell repair.
On the positive side, quitting smoking pays off. While the risk of developing cancer increases with each year smoked, the risk declines to near that of nonsmokers within about 10 years of quitting.
If you drink, make it red wine
In a recent study, Hutchinson Center researchers found that men who drank four to eight 4-ounce glasses of red wine weekly reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 50 percent. They also experienced about a 60 percent lower incidence of the more aggressive types of this cancer.
Scientists believe resveratrol, a compound in the skins of red grapes that is released into the wine during the fermentation process, acts as an antioxidant, helping to sweep dangerous, cancer-causing free radicals from the body. Resveratrol may also be a roadblock to tumor growth. Resveratrol is abundant in red wine but not in red grape juice, so for men who already drink alcohol, the results of this study suggest that they may want to choose red wine—in moderation. Excessive alcohol use can have adverse effects on health ranging from increased overall cancer risk to accidental injury.
Set aside vasectomy worries
Vasectomy does not increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer, according to findings from the largest study ever designed to look at prostate-cancer risk and vasectomy in men under age 65. The Hutchinson Center findings are reassuring to men who select vasectomy for contraception.
Doctors’ recommendations for prostate-cancer screening vary because it is not always clear that benefits outweigh the risks of some diagnostic tests and treatment. Some doctors encourage yearly screening for men over age 50; others recommend against screening; still others counsel men about their risks and benefits on an individual basis and encourage patients to make personal decisions about screening.
More than 96 percent of prostate-cancer cases occur in men 55 or older. Men who have a father or brother with prostate cancer have a greater chance of developing the disease, and African-American men have the highest rate of prostate cancer. Therefore, these groups would benefit the most from screening.
The two main screening tools are:
- Digital-rectal exam (DRE), in which the doctor feels the prostate gland through the rectal wall to check for bumps or abnormal areas.
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which measures the level of protein in the blood that rises when the prostate gland enlarges. PSA levels alone do not provide enough information to distinguish between benign and cancerous conditions, but they can help doctors decide whether to check for further signs of prostate cancer.