10 Ways to Lower Your Prostate Cancer Risk
You’ve likely heard a lot about prostate cancer recently, and you might have questions about whether you should get tested for it. While doctors and policymakers are hashing out differing perspectives on prostate cancer screenings (more on this below), it’s important to remember that these tests are only one aspect of your prevention plan. There are a surprising number of ways that you can reduce your risk of this disease — the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States — with lifestyle changes before you even step foot in the doctor’s office.
There are some risk factors beyond your reach: age (more than 70 percent of prostate cancers are in men over age 65), race (men of African-American descent are at higher risk) and a family history of the disease. But there are also many that you can control, including the amount of physical activity you’re getting, how many extra pounds you’re carrying and the food choices you’re making.
“A lot of diagnosed cases of prostate cancer could have been prevented by normal preventive check-ups and small lifestyle changes,” says Andres Valenzuela, M.S., R.D.N., a nutritionist at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. “This is why it is so important for men to understand how much nutrition and exercise can impact their overall health and cancer prevention.”
Here are 10 steps you can take starting today to lower your risk of prostate cancer:
Put Fitness on Your Side
Lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk for prostate cancer, so shoot for the American Cancer Society-recommended minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (like walking or yoga), or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (like jogging or swimming) every week. The payoff is impressive: Caucasian men who are moderately or highly active have a 53 percent lower risk of prostate cancer than sedentary or mildly active men.
Even brisk walking greatly reduces the chance of recurrence in men with early-stage prostate cancer. Increasing your fitness level safely takes time, so listen to your body and be patient with your progress.
More: 8 Ways to Move More
Watch Your Weight
Excess weight or obesity is responsible for 14 percent of deaths from all cancers in men. Studies don’t seem to show a direct link between body fat and developing prostate cancer, but carrying too much weight makes it harder to detect the disease at an early, treatable stage. Fat lowers circulating levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a marker for prostate cancer, which makes it harder to catch. Being overweight also makes it more difficult to screen for prostate cancer through digital rectal exams, and obese men also have a higher risk of prostate cancer recurrence. If your body mass index is over 25, work with your healthcare provider to develop an attainable weight-loss strategy.
Fill Up on Colorful Fruits and Veggies
What you put on your plate may be your best defense when it comes to preventing prostate cancer, which has been linked to the high-fat, high-sugar Western diet. In fact, you have a chance to boost your prostate health at every meal! Start by piling on the fruits and vegetables—aim for five servings a day
Start by piling on the fruits and vegetables—aim for five servings a day as part of your complete cancer-prevention diet, Valenzuela recommends. The brighter and richer the hue, the higher the level of cancer-fighting antioxidants. Carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, cranberries, beets, kale and broccoli are all good choices. Try to eat them raw and with the skin on; that’s where many of their nutrients are found.
Add Tomatoes to Your Shopping List
Researchers have been touting the benefits of these juicy red gems for over a decade. Their key ingredient: lycopene, an antioxidant shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, including prostate. (Note that tomatoes themselves have been shown to be more effective in preventing prostate cancer than lycopene supplements.) And tomatoes cooked with olive oil are even better than the fresh fruits when it comes to preventing cancer. Not a fan? Watermelon, papayas, grapefruits and apricots are some delicious lycopene-rich alternatives.
Not a fan? Watermelon, papayas, grapefruits and apricots are some delicious lycopene-rich alternatives.
Learn to Love the Onion Family
Allium vegetables, including garlic, onions, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots, are packed with flavonols and organosulfur compounds, which have anti-cancer effects.
Studies show that men who eat more than three grams of allium vegetables (think three cloves of garlic and two tablespoons of scallions) per day have a 50 percent lower risk of prostate cancer than men who eat fewer than two grams.
Rethink Red Meat
High-fat diets, such as those heavy on red meat, are associated with prostate cancer in men. Furthermore, there are higher incidences of prostate, pancreatic and colon cancer in people who eat a lot of well-done, fried or barbequed meats. When meat is cooked and charred at high temperatures, chemicals are formed that are known to cause prostate and other cancers in animals.
Favor poultry and fish. When eating beef, pork or lamb, try to stick with 4-ounce portions of lean cuts, like round steaks, roasts (eye round, bottom round, filet mignon, flank steak), those with ‘loin’ in the name (sirloin and pork tenderloin) and ground beef labeled at least 95 percent lean. Pork and lamb can be ground to specific fat content if you work with your local butcher, Valenzuela says. Opt for baking, broiling or poaching your choices.
And if you do grill or fry meat (this goes for poultry and fish, too), flip it often to reduce the formation of carcinogens, and be sure to remove charred bits before you chow down.
Reap the Benefits of Beans
Beans, particularly soy, chickpeas and lentils, are outstanding sources of isoflavones and should be included in your anti-prostate cancer diet. “Isoflavones help with minimizing the conversion of testosterone to DHT,” Valenzuela explains. “High levels of DHT in men leads to prostatitis—inflammation of the prostate—which can eventually lead to prostate cancer.”
Soybeans are our richest source of isoflavones and, contrary to rumor, they won’t make you grow breasts. Valenzuela recommends three cups (cooked) of organic, non-GMO whole soybeans a week. Another benefit? Beans are full of fiber, and eating a high-fiber diet can help to reduce your cancer risk. Canned beans are a great option, but be sure to rinse them, as they’re swimming in high-sodium liquid.
Limit Your Alcohol
Studies are mixed on the link between moderate drinking and prostate cancer, but heavy alcohol use (more than four beers or more per day) has been shown to increase the risk of developing high-grade prostate cancer, the most aggressive form of the disease. “Alcohol is a toxin in our bodies,” Valenzuela explains. “It causes inflammation and oxidative stress, and any underlying level of those factors in the body can eventually lead to cancer cells being created and tumor growth.”
So when it comes to alcohol, play it safe: That means no more than two drinks a day for men. What counts as a drink? 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
Don’t Overdo Supplements
Increasingly, we’re learning that more is not always better when it comes to supplements. “If you’re taking a high-dose supplement that’s got thousand percentages of certain nutrients, it could be having a detrimental effect,” Valenzuela says.” High doses of vitamin E and selenium supplements are particularly concerning when it comes to prostate cancer. Visit our articles on
High doses of vitamin E and selenium supplements are particularly concerning when it comes to prostate cancer. Visit our articles on vitamin E and selenium to learn about how you can make sure you’re getting enough through your diet—and what level of supplementation is safe.
Discuss the Pros and Cons of Screening
It’s important to get a manual prostate exam annually starting at age 40. However, there’s debate over the usefulness of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. That’s because the PSA test, which measures blood levels of a protein produced by the prostate gland, may do more harm than good. How so? Early detection of the slow-growing cancer often leads to aggressive treatment, which can cause side effects such as impotence or incontinence. The best course is to have a candid discussion with your doctor about your risk factors and whether the test is right for you.
Early detection of the slow-growing cancer often leads to aggressive treatment, which can cause side effects such as impotence or incontinence. The best course is to have a candid discussion with your doctor about your risk factors and whether the test is right for you.