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10 Ways to Lower Your Prostate Cancer Risk

May 20 2021
8 min read
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Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death in men, just behind lung cancer.

The good news, however, is that most men diagnosed with prostate cancer will not die from it. Even better news, is that there are a surprising number of simple things you can incorporate into your life that will reduce your risk of this disease. Of course, some risk factors are beyond your reach. These include: age (70 percent of prostate cancer occurs in men over age 65) ethnicity (African-Americans are more at risk), and family history.

Luckily, there are many things you can control, such as your diet and exercise regime. Physicians often lament that many diagnosed cases could have been prevented through regular, preventative check-ups, and a modification of diet and exercise.

Here are 10 steps you can take starting today to lower your risk of prostate cancer:

Put Fitness on Your Side

A sedentary lifestyle increases 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.

Watch Your Weight

Excess weight or obesity is responsible for 14 percent of deaths from all cancers in men. Excess weight not only raises your risk of prostate cancer, it can also mean more aggressive and fatal cancer, according to a study published online June 10, 2019, by Cancer. And carrying too much weight makes it harder to detect the disease at an early, treatable stage. Why? Because fat lowers circulating levels of a 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 as part of your complete cancer-prevention diet. 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, is 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.) 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.

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 in 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. Dieticians say 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 to minimize the conversion of testosterone to DHT (Dihydrotestosterone is an endogenous androgen sex steroid and hormone). High levels of DHT in men creates 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. Dieticians recommend 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 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 that causes inflammation and oxidative stress—both are considered by experts to potentially lead to cancer cell and or 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 supplements, such as vitamin E or selenium, it can be detrimental. Visit our articles on vitamin E and selenium to make sure you’re getting enough via your diet—and what level of supplementation is safe.

Discuss the Pros and Cons of Screening

It’s critical to get a manual prostate exams 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.