5 Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Prostate Cancer
With around 233,000 cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in the US each year it is the second most common cancer and around 1 in 7 men can expect to have the disease during their lifetime. Although some men require no treatment for prostate cancer or their cancer is successfully cured, for others the cancer proves fatal. Bearing this in mind, it makes sense to take steps that may possibly help to protect you from the development of this cancer.
Achieve a Healthy Body Weight
The link between body weight and prostate cancer risk appears complex, as while carrying extra weight may help to protect you from localized cancer of the prostate, which is unlikely to pose a risk to you, a body mass index over 30 increases your risk of more advanced prostate cancer. As advanced prostate cancer needs more aggressive treatment and is often incurable, you should take action to reduce your BMI if you are overweight. Achieving a healthier body weight may also reduce your risk of lymphoma and cancers affecting the colon, kidney, thyroid and pancreas.
Stay Physically Active
Taking regular exercise doesn’t just aid weight loss, as there is evidence that keeping active may directly help to protect you against prostate cancer as well. Reviewing the results of 43 studies researchers found that men aged between 20 and 65 who were more active were significantly less likely to have a prostate tumor. Benefits of exercise were not seen among the over 65s, so making sure that you are active during your younger years seems to be the key to protect against cancer of the prostate. Regular exercise appears protective against colon cancer as well and you’ll also benefit your heart, lungs, bones and mood by taking daily exercise.
Increase Your Intake of Dietary Lycopene
Although overall intake of fruit and vegetables does not appear to favorably alter your risk of prostate cancer, those rich in lycopene show more promise. Lycopene is the red pigment that gives tomatoes their color and is a potent antioxidant. This means that lycopene helps to neutralize free radicals, which have the potential to cause cancerous changes within your body cells. It appears that lycopene offers most benefit in protecting the prostate gland, with recent studies adding further weight to lycopene’s ability to protect against prostate cancer. Indeed, the latest evidence shows that higher dietary intakes of lycopene are linked to a lower risk of cancer of the prostate, reducing the risk of all prostate cancers by 9% and fatal cancers by 28%. Eating a dish that contain tomatoes each day is an easy way to increase your lycopene intake and it is useful to know that processed tomatoes, such as those in cans and puree, offer lycopene in the greatest amounts. However, the pigment isn’t just found in tomatoes, as pink grapefruit, watermelon, guavas, papaya, red peppers and red cabbage are also rich in lycopene.
Avoid High Dose Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
While it is not clear whether lycopene from supplements offers the same level of protection against prostate cancer as that from the diet, a detailed review of the influence of dietary supplements on prostate cancer risk found that other vitamin and mineral supplements cannot be recommended. This is particularly the case for high dose supplements of vitamin E and selenium, as although both have antioxidant activity, in large quantities they appear to cause harm to the cells of the prostate. Interest in vitamin E and selenium arose, as studying populations showed that people with higher intakes of these two micronutrients were at lower risk of prostate tumors. However, as with many supplements, it seems that they do not offer the same benefits as getting the same nutrients from your diet. This may relate to the fact that in high doses both vitamin E and selenium act as pro-oxidants, actually increasing the production of free radicals, while it is difficult to reach these levels of intake when relying on dietary sources alone. The best option is to therefore obtain all the vitamins and minerals you need by following a well-balanced diet rather than focusing on individual nutrients. By doing so you should not need to take any dietary supplements, but if for any reason you still feel you need to do so, a balanced vitamin and mineral supplement should not cause any harm.
Consider Medication Options
Although most drugs can be safely taken without increasing your risk of prostate cancer, if you take anabolic steroids to increase your muscle mass, you should reconsider using these. This is because anabolic steroids increase levels of testosterone in the body, which is a risk factor for prostate tumors, and indeed prostate cancer is more common among people who use this type of steroid. It is also worth noting that while aspirin and statins are essential for the management of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, both drugs can lower levels of Prostate-Specific-Antigen (PSA). As PSA is a marker of prostate cancer, a lower value may mask prostate tumors so that they are not picked up till a more advanced stage. This doesn’t mean that you should discontinue aspirin or statins, but you should tell your urologist that you take these medications to allow them to take this into account when analyzing the results of a PSA screen. However, there is good news about one medication and its potential to lower your risk of prostate cancer. Research shows that finasteride, which is prescribed to manage benign prostatic hyperplasia and male pattern baldness, lowers the overall risk of prostate cancer by 43%. While the trial did show there was a small increase in high-grade prostate tumors when taking finasteride, this may stem from the fact that a smaller prostate makes tumors easier to detect. With these promising results, further research is necessary to show whether finasteride has a positive influence on the death rate among those with prostate cancer.