Diet, Vitamins, and Exercise for Prostate Cancer

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In particular, unhealthy diets encourage prostate cancer growth and spread. The importance of diet can be easily established by looking at mortality rates from prostate cancer in China where the risk of dying is eighteen times lower than in the United States.1 Genetic factors cannot explain these differences since Asians who come to the United States and start eating a western diet have a rise in cancer mortality.

Reduce Animal Protein
The United States National Cancer Institute has spent millions of dollars on dietary research in China. China was selected for these studies because the Chinese rarely move around; their dietary habits remain stable throughout their lives. A summary of these extensive studies has been published in The China Study. The author, Dr. Colin Campbell, discovered that the risk of cancer death went up as the consumption of animal protein increased.

Animal protein, particularly red meat, has been associated with an increasing incidence of prostate cancer.2 Milk, a very concentrated form of animal protein, also stimulates prostate cancer.3,4 Both meat and milk stimulate increased production of insulin-like growth factor,5,6 which is associated with more aggressive cancer behavior. Of all the types of animal protein, fish seems to be the safest.7,8

The Ornish Approach
Dr. Dean Ornish, of cardiac diet fame, studied an intensive dietary and lifestyle program in 93 men, half of which were randomly allocated to a vegan diet (vegetarian, non-dairy) supplemented with antioxidants such as lycopene. The program also called for moderate aerobic exercise. The remainder of the men served as a non-treated comparison group. After 12 months, the men on the program achieved a statistically significant reduction in their PSA levels.9 Studies on the blood showed that cancer cells fed serum from men not on the Ornish program grew eight times faster than those cells receiving serum from men who were on the program.

Lack of exercise has a very negative effect on health. In The New England Journal of Medicine, fitness was measured via a standard treadmill test in 2500 healthy men. The favorable impact of improved fitness on longevity was so great that physically fit smokers outlived the nonsmokers who had poor physical conditioning.10

Prostate cancer is caused by inflammation and oxygen radicals. Human studies show a lower likelihood of getting prostate cancer by eating diets rich in antioxidants. For example, tomato sauce which is high in lycopene reduces the risk of developing advanced prostate cancer by 35%.11 Higher serum lycopene levels in the blood have been associated with up to an 80 percent reduction in the risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. On average, multiple studies show a 20% reduction in prostate cancer with increased tomato products in the diet.12

Enthusiasm for the benefits of selenium may need to be tempered somewhat. The results of the SELECT trial showed no change in the frequency of diagnosing prostate cancer within the first five years after starting supplementation with selenium.13 However, the five-year time period of the trial is hardly representative of the 20 to 40 year period that men harbor prostate cancer before diagnosis. Also, of the over 30,000 men in the study, only two actually died of prostate cancer.13

Vitamin E, a strong antioxidant, is often touted for its protective effects against prostate cancer. Several studies have reported up to a 40% reduction in prostate cancer risk with vitamin E.14 However, enthusiasm for using vitamin E is waning. A compilation of multiple vitamin E studies demonstrated an increase in mortality with the use of 400 IUs daily compared to the people who were not taking it.15 Another study showed that vitamin E counteracted the cholesterol-lowering effect of Lipitor.®16

Before we leave the antioxidant topic altogether, one last food group, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli have also been associated with a fifty percent reduction in prostate cancer risk.17 A substance called sulforaphane appears to be the most active ingredient in these food types. Sulphoraphane itself is not a direct antioxidant. Rather, sulphoraphane works by stimulating cells to make a protective antioxidant enzyme called glutathione transferase that is often depleted in prostate cancer cells.

Vitamins and Supplements
Sun exposure increases vitamin D and studies indicate that mortality rates from prostate cancer decrease as exposure to ultraviolet light increases. However, melanin in the skin reduces the synthesis of vitamin D, which may partially explain why African-Americans have a higher mortality from prostate cancer. In studies of men with relapsed prostate cancer treated with medicinal amounts of vitamin D, PSA levels stabilized or even declined.18 Vitamin D deficiency is common in the general population. The standard capsule of 400 IU daily is inadequate. The minimum dose should probably exceed 1000 IU daily.19 Vitamin D levels in the blood can be checked during an annual physical.

A food that has received much attention for inhibiting prostate cancer is pomegranate juice. A UCLA study of fifty men with increasing PSA levels showed a significant slowing in the rate of PSA rise. The manufacturer of POM Wonderful®, has created a pomegranate pill, which may be a healthier alternative for daily use since the juice contains substantial amounts of sugar.

Recommended Vitamins and Supplements
1. Vitamin D 2000 u daily
2. Fish oil 1000 mg twice a day
3. Lycopene 15-30 mg daily
4. Pomegranate extract

Don’t Feed the Cancer!
There are a number of studies confirming that men who overeat and who are overweight display an increased incidence and aggressiveness of prostate cancer.20,21,22,23 However, the problem goes beyond simply eating too many calories. Excess vitamins and minerals, the building blocks for the creation of new cells, are also associated with an elevated risk of prostate cancer. Studies show that excess multivitamins, zinc, iron, copper and calcium24,25 are all associated with increased prostate cancer mortality (lower doses of calcium, less than 1000 mg a day, have not been linked to an increased risk).

Foods and Minerals to Avoid
1. Animal protein and milk
2. Copper, iron and zinc
3. Multivitamins and Vitamin E

Rich nutrients and calories stimulate cancer growth just as fertilizer stimulates plant growth. Cancer cells damage the body when they multiply and enlarge into tumors that push aside the normal cells, impairing normal organ function. Clearly, the most sensible approach to inhibiting cancer growth is to cut back on all these rich nutrients.

1. David Crawford, Epidemiology of prostate cancer. UROLOGY, December 2003.
2. Amanda Cross, A prospective study of meat and meat mutagens and prostate cancer risk. Cancer Research, December 2005.
3. Carmen Rodriguez, Calcium, dairy products, and risk of prostate cancer in a prospective cohort of United States men. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers Prevention, July 2003.
4. Li-Qiang Qin, Milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer: Meta-analysis of case-control studies. Nutrition and Cancer, January 2004.
5. R. James Barnard, A low-fat diet and /or strenuous exercise alters the IGF axis in vivo and reduces prostate tumor cell growth in vitro. The Prostate, August 2003.
6. Camilla Hoppe, Animal protein intake, serum insulin-like growth factor I, and growth in healthy 2.5-y-old Danish children. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2004.
7. Paul Terry, Fatty fish consumption and risk of prostate cancer. Lancet, June 2001.
8. Katarina Augustsson, A prospective study of intake of fish and marine fatty acids and prostate cancer. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, January 2003.
9. Dean Ornish, Intensive lifestyle changes may affect the progression of prostate cancer. The Journal of Urology, September 2005.
10. Jonathan Myers, Exercise capacity and mortality among men referred for exercise testing. The New England Journal of Medicine, March 2002.
11. Edward Giovannucci, A prospective study of tomato products, lycopene, and prostate cancer risk. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, March 2002
12. Mahyar Etminan, The role of tomato products and lycopene in the prevention of prostate cancer: A metaanalysis of observational studies. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers Prevention, March 2004.
13. Scott Lippman, Effect of selenium and vitamin E on risk of prostate cancer and other cancers: the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, May 2009.
14. Olli Heinoned, Prostate cancer and supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and betacarotene: Incidence and mortality in a controlled trial. Journal National Cancer Institute, March 1998.
15. Edgar Miller, Meta-analysis: High-dosage vitamin E supplementation may increase all-cause mortality. Annals of Internal Medicine, January 2005.
16. B. Greg Brown, Simvastatin and niacin, antioxidant vitamins, or the combination for the prevention of coronary disease. The New England Journal of Medicine, November 2001.
17. Michael Joseph, Cruciferous vegetables, genetic polymorphisms in glutathione stransferase m1 and t1, and prostate cancer risk. Nutrition and Cancer, January 2004.
18. Coleman Gross, Treatment of early recurrent prostate cancer with 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (Calcitriol). The Journal of Urology, June 1998.
19. Laufey Steingrimsdottir, Relationship between serum parathyroid hormone levels, vitamin D sufficiency, and calcium intake. Journal of the American Medical Association, November 2005.
20. Stephen Freedland, Body mass index as a predictor of prostate cancer: development versus detection on biopsy. UROLOGY, July 2005.
21. Lillian Hsieh, Association of energy intake with prostate cancer in a long-term aging study: Baltimore longitudinal study of aging (United States). UROLOGY, February 2003.
22. Stephen Freedland, Obesity and risk of biochemical progression following radical prostatectomy at a tertiary care referral center. The Journal of Urology, September 2005.
23. Christopher Amling, Pathologic variables and recurrence rates as related to obesity and race in men with prostate cancer undergoing radical prostatectomy. Journal of Clinical Oncology, February 2004.
24. Karla Lawson, Multivitamin use and the risk of prostate cancer in the national institutes of health-AARP diet and health study. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, May 2007.
25. M Leitzmann, Zinc supplement use and risk of prostate cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, July 2003.