Gain added protection against prostate cancer by living a healthy lifestyle and by learning more about the causes of this common disease. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
Eat risk-reducing foods
Add plenty of tomato, soy, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts), and fish to your meals
Try vitamin E as mixed tocopherols
50 IU a day of this supplement may help lower prostate cancer risks
Take time for a checkup
See your doctor once a year for a prostate exam that can help detect disease before it becomes advanced
4 mg twice per day for a year has been has been shown to improve precancerous conditions in at-risk people
About This Condition
Prostate cancer is a malignancy of the prostate. It is characterized by unregulated replication of cells creating tumors, with the possibility of some of the cells spreading to other sites (metastasis).
This article includes a discussion of studies that have assessed whether certain vitamins, minerals, herbs, or other dietary ingredients offered in dietary or herbal supplements may be beneficial in connection with the reduction of risk of developing prostate cancer.
This information is provided solely to aid consumers in discussing supplements with their healthcare providers. It is not advised, nor is this information intended to advocate, promote, or encourage self use of these supplements for cancer risk reduction or treatment. Furthermore, none of this information should be misconstrued to suggest that dietary or herbal supplements can or should be used in place of conventional anticancer approaches or treatments.
It should be noted that certain studies referenced, indicating the potential usefulness of a particular dietary ingredient or dietary or herbal supplement in connection with the reduction of risk of prostate cancer, are preliminary evidence only. Some studies suggest an association between high blood or dietary levels of a particular dietary ingredient with a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer. Even if such an association were established, this does not mean that dietary supplements containing large amounts of the dietary ingredient will necessarily have a cancer risk reduction effect.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. Although the cause is not known, most researchers believe that alterations in testosterone metabolism and/or bodily responses to testosterone are involved.
Throughout the world, autopsy reports show that evidence of microscopic prostate cancer is extremely common in older men. However, most men who have such microscopic disease are never diagnosed with, nor do they die from, prostate cancer. Unlike this dormant form of the disease, the incidence of potentially life-threatening prostate cancer varies greatly in different parts of the world. Researchers believe that some factors, possibly involving diet or lifestyle issues, determine the risk of having potentially life-threatening prostate cancer.
American men are at high risk of being diagnosed with such prostate cancer, and African-American men are at particularly high risk, for reasons that are not completely clear. A family history of prostate cancer increases the risk to a limited extent. Farmers, mechanics, workers in tire and rubber manufacturing, sheet metal workers, and workers exposed to cadmium have also been reported to be at increased risk.
Prostate cancer usually grows slowly, initially producing no symptoms. Later in the course of the disease, symptoms that overlap with symptoms of prostatic hyperplasia, a very common benign condition, may appear. Some of these symptoms include frequent urination (including having to urinate more frequently at night), pain on urination, a weak urinary stream, dribbling after urination, and a sensation of incomplete emptying. In addition, blood may appear in urine. None of these symptoms is specific to prostate cancer; the diagnosis of this disease requires the help of a doctor.
If prostate cancer spreads to a distant part of the body, it most often is found in bone, a condition that may cause bone pain. Late stages of the disease are associated with severe weight loss, untreatable fatigue-inducing anemia, and finally death.
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
Several studies have reported that the risk of prostate cancer increases with increasing body weight.1, 2
The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.
Fish eaters have been reported to have a low risk of prostate cancer, possibly due to fish’s high omega-3 fatty acid content.
Fish eaters have been reported to have low risk for prostate cancer.3 The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are thought by some researchers to be the components of fish responsible for protection against cancer.4
Go for cruciferous veggies
Cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower, may protect against prostate cancer.
Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower belong to the Brassica family of vegetables, also known as “cruciferous” vegetables. In test tube and animal studies, these foods have shown to have anticancer activity,5 possibly due to several substances found in them, such as indole-3-carbinol,6 glucaric acid (calcium D-glucarate),7 and sulforaphane.8 A recent preliminary study of men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer showed a 41% decreased risk of prostate cancer among men eating three or more servings of cruciferous vegetables per week, compared with those eating less than one serving per week.9 Protective effects of cruciferous vegetables were thought to be due to their high concentration of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as their stimulatory effects on the breakdown of environmental carcinogens associated with prostate cancer.10
Sample some soy
Genistein, found in soy foods, has been shown to inhibit growth of prostate cancer cells, help kill these cells, and exhibit other anticancer actions in test-tube studies, more research is needed to confirm these findings
In preliminary research, men who consumed soy milk more than once per day were reported to have a significantly lower risk of prostate cancer compared with other men.11 Genistein is an isoflavone found in soybeans and many soy foods, such as tofu, soy milk, and some soy protein powders. Except for soy sauce and soy protein concentrates processed with alcohol, most soy-based foods contain significant amounts of isoflavones, such as genistein. Some researchers are now saying that genistein may eventually be shown to have the potential to treat prostate cancer,12 while others say only that enough evidence exists to recommend that future genistein research be devoted to the subject of prostate cancer prevention.13
Team up with tomatoes
Tomatoes may protect against a variety of cancers, and their protective effect seems to be stronger for prostate cancer than for most other cancers.
Tomatoes contain lycopene—an antioxidant similar in structure to beta-carotene. Most lycopene in our diet comes from tomatoes, though traces of lycopene exist in other foods. Lycopene has been reported to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells in test tube research.14
A review of published research found that higher intake of tomatoes or higher blood levels of lycopene correlated with a reduced risk of cancer in 57 of 72 studies. Findings in 35 of these studies were statistically significant.15 Evidence of a protective effect for tomato consumption was stronger for prostate cancer than for most other cancers.
Try a low-fat diet
Men who ate a high-fat, low-fiber diet were reported to have higher levels of testosterone, which might increase prostate cancer risk.
When combined with a low-fiber diet, men consuming a high-fat diet have been reported to have higher levels of testosterone,16 which might increase their risk of prostate cancer. The risk of prostate cancer correlates with dietary fat from country to country,17 a finding supported in some,18, 19 but not all,20 preliminary trials.
Although the effect of drinking alcohol on prostate cancer risk appears weak, some association between beer drinking and an increased risk may exist.
Although the effect of drinking alcohol on prostate cancer risk appears weak, some association between beer drinking and an increased risk may exist, according to an analysis of most published reports.21
Watch the meat
Research suggests that frequently eating meat, well-done steak, or cured meats may increase prostate cancer risk, though the association between prostate cancer and other meats has not been confirmed.
Meat contains high amounts of arachidonic acid. Some by-products of arachidonic acid have promoted prostate cancer in animals.22 Preliminary reports have suggested that frequently eating well-done steak23 or cured meats24 may also increase the risk of prostate cancer in men, though the association between prostate cancer and other meats has not been consistently reported.
Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
Several cups per day (enough to provide 600 mg of catechins daily)
In a double-blind trial, men with precancerous changes in the prostate received a green tea extract providing 600 mg of catechins per day or a placebo for one year. After one year, prostate cancer had developed in 3.3% of the men receiving the green tea extract and in 30% of those given the placebo, a statistically significant difference.25 These results suggest that drinking green tea or taking green tea catechins may help prevent prostate cancer in men at high risk of developing the disease.
200 mcg daily
Selenium has been reported to have diverse anticancer actions.26, 27 Selenium inhibits cancer in animals.28 Low soil levels of selenium (probably associated with low dietary intake), have been associated with increased cancer incidence in humans.29 Blood levels of selenium have been reported to be low in patients with prostate cancer.30 In preliminary reports, people with the lowest blood levels of selenium had between 3.8 and 5.8 times the risk of dying from cancer compared with those who had the highest selenium levels.31, 32
The strongest evidence supporting the anticancer effects of selenium supplementation comes from a double-blind trial of 1,312 Americans with a history of skin cancer who were treated with 200 mcg of yeast-based selenium per day or placebo for 4.5 years and then followed for an additional two years.33 Although no decrease in skin cancers occurred, a dramatic 50% reduction in overall cancer deaths and a 37% reduction in total cancer incidence were observed. A statistically significant 63% decrease in prostate cancer incidence was reported.34 However, in a follow-up double-blind trial that included 35,533 healthy men, supplementing with 200 mcg per day of selenium for an average of 5.5 years had no effect on the incidence of prostate cancer.35 In another trial, 5,141 men were randomly assigned to receive a placebo or a daily supplement containing 100 mcg of selenium, 120 mg of vitamin C, 30 IU of vitamin E, 6 mg of beta-carotene, and 20 mg of zinc 20 for eight years. Among men with a normal PSA level at the start of the study, there was a statistically significant 48% reduction in the incidence of prostate cancer. Among men with an initially elevated PSA level, the supplemented group had an increased incidence of prostate cancer that was not statistically significant.36
50 IU daily
Relatively high blood levels of vitamin E have been associated with relatively low levels of hormones linked to prostate cancer.37 In a double-blind trial studying smokers, vitamin E supplementation (50 IU per day for an average of six years) led to a 32% decrease in prostate cancer incidence and a 41% decrease in prostate cancer deaths.38 Both findings were statistically significant.39 However, in a double-blind study of 35,533 healthy men, supplementing with 400 IU per day of vitamin E for an average of 5.5 years (with a total follow-up period of 7 years) significantly increased the incidence of prostate cancer by 17%.40 The effects of vitamin E have yet to be studied in men already diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The conflicting results in these studies may be due to the fact that all of the studies used pure alpha-tocopherol, which is only one of the four different forms of vitamin E that occur naturally in food (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol). Treatment with large doses of alpha-tocopherol by itself (such as 400 IU per day or more) has been shown to deplete gamma-tocopherol, potentially upsetting the natural balance of the different forms of vitamin E in the body. "Mixed tocopherols," on the other hand, a supplement that contains all four types of vitamin E, would not be expected to cause such an imbalance.
Both alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol have been found to inhibit the growth of human prostate cancer cells in a test tube, but gamma-tocopherol was the more potent of the two.41 In another study, higher blood levels of alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol were each associated a lower risk of developing prostate cancer, but the protective effect of gamma-tocopherol was greater than that of alpha-tocopherol.42 These observations raise the possibility that both alpha- and gamma-tocopherol have a protective effect against prostate cancer. However, when alpha-tocopherol is given by itself in large doses (such as 400 IU per day or more), it depletes gamma-tocopherol, which could more than negate any beneficial effect that alpha-tocopherol might have. If that is the case, then taking vitamin E as mixed tocopherols would not be expected to increase prostate cancer risk, and might even help prevent prostate cancer. Further research is needed to examine that possibility.
In a preliminary trial, supplementation with 4 mg of lycopene twice a day for one year reduced the incidence of prostate cancer in men with precancerous changes in their prostate glands.47 Long-term controlled studies are needed to confirm these promising initial reports.
2,000 IU daily
Where sun exposure is low, the rate of prostate cancer has been reported to be high.48, 49 In the body, vitamin D is changed into a hormone with great activity. This activated vitamin D causes “cellular differentiation”—essentially the opposite of cancer.
14. Levy J, Bosin E, Feldman B, et al. Lycopene is a more potent inhibitor of human cancer cell proliferation than either a-carotene or ß-carotene. Nutr Cancer 1995;24:257–66.
15. Giovannucci E. Tomatoes, tomato-based products, lycopene, and cancer: review of the epidemiologic literature. J Natl Cancer Inst 1999;91:317–31.
16. Dorgan JF, Judd JT, Longcope C, et al. Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study. Am J Clin Nutr 1996;64:850–5.
17. Peinta KJ, Esper PS. Is dietary fat a risk factor for prostate cancer? J Natl Cancer Inst 1993;85:1538–9 [editorial/review].
18. Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Colditz GA, et al. A prospective study of dietary fat and risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 1993;85:15571–9.
19. Le Marchand L, Kolonel LN, Wilkens LR, et al. Animal fat consumption and prostate cancer: a prospective study in Hawaii. Epidemiology 1994;5:276–82.
20. Schuurman AG, van den Brandt PA, Dorant E, et al. Association of energy and fat intake with prostate carcinoma risk: results from the Netherlands Cohort Study. Cancer 1999;86:1019–27.
21. Dennis LK. Meta-analysis for combining relative risks of alcohol consumption and prostate cancer. Prostate 2000;42:56–66.
22. Ghosh J, Myers C Jr. Arachidonic acid metabolism and cancer of the prostate. Nutrition 1998;14:48–57 [editorial].
23. Norrish AE, Ferguson LR, Knize MG, et al. Heterocyclic amine content of cooked meat and risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 1999;91:2038–44.
24. Schuurman AG, van den Brandt PA, Dorant E, Goldohm RA. Animal products, calcium and protein and prostate cancer risk in the Netherlands Cohort Study. Br J Cancer 1999;80:1107–13.
25. Bettuzzi S, Brausi M, Rizzi F, et al. Chemoprevention of human prostate cancer by oral administration of green tea catechins in volunteers with high-grade prostate intraepithelial neoplasia: a preliminary report from a one-year proof-of-principle study. Cancer Res 2006;66:1234–40.
26. Medina D. Mechanisms of selenium inhibition of tumorigenesis. Adv Exp Med Biol 1986;206:465–72.
27. Beisel WR. Single nutrients and immunity. Am J Clin Nutr 1982;35:417–68.
28. Medina D, Morrison DG. Current ideas on selenium as a chemopreventative agent. Pathol Immunopathol Res 1988;7:187–99.
29. Shamberger RJ, Rukoven E, Lonfield AK, et al. Antioxidants and cancer. I. Selenium in the blood of normals and cancer patients. J Natl Cancer Inst 1973;4:863–70.
30. Willett WC, Polk BF, Morris JS, et al. Prediagnostic serum Selenium and risk of cancer. Lancet 1983;42:130–4.
31. Fex G, Pettersson B, Akesson B. Low plasma selenium as a risk factor for cancer death in middle-aged men. Nutr Cancer 1987;10:221–9.
32. Salonen J, Salonen R, Lappetelainen R, et al. Risk of cancer in relation to serum concentrations of selenium and vitamins A and E; matched case-control analysis of prospective data. BMJ 1985;290:417–20.
33. Clark LC, Combs GF Jr, Turnbull BW, et al. Effects of selenium supplementation for cancer prevention in patients with carcinoma of the skin. JAMA 1996;276:1957–63.
34. Clark LC, Combs GF Jr, Turnbull BW, et al. Effects of selenium supplementation for cancer prevention in patients with carcinoma of the skin. JAMA 1996;276:1957–63.
35. Lippman SM, Klein EA, Goodman PJ, et al. Effect of selenium and vitamin E on risk of prostate cancer and other cancers: the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT). JAMA 2009;301:39–51.
36. Meyer F, Galan P, Douville P, et al. Antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplementation and prostate cancer prevention in the SU.VI.MAX trial. Int J Cancer 2005;116:182–6.
37. Hartman TJ, Dorgan JF, Virtamo J, et al. Association between serum a-tocopherol and serum androgens and estrogens in older men. Nutr Cancer 1999;35:10–5.
38. Heinonen OP, Albanes D, Virtamo J, et al. Prostate cancer and supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene: incidence and mortality in a controlled trial. J Natl Cancer Inst 1998;90:440–6.
39. Heinonen OP, Albanes D, Virtamo J, et al. Prostate cancer and supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene: incidence and mortality in a controlled trial. J Natl Cancer Inst 1998;90:440–6.
40. REF: Klein EA, Thompson IM Jr, Tangen CM, et al. Vitamin E and the risk of prostate cancer. The Seleniun and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT). JAMA 2011;306:1549–56.
41. Saldeen K, Saldeen T. Importance of tocopherols beyond alpha-tocopherol: evidence from animal and human studies. Nutr Res 2005;25:877–9.
42. REF:Helzlsouer KJ, Huang HY, Alberg AJ, al. Association between alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, selenium, and subsequent prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 2000;92:2018–23.
43. Cesano A, Visonneau S, Scimeca JA, et al. Opposite effects of linoleic acid and conjugated linoleic acid on human prostatic cancer in SCID mice. Anticancer Res 1998;18:1429-34.
44. Thompson H, Zhu Z, Banni S, et al. Morphological and biochemical status of the mammary gland as influenced by conjugated linoleic acid: implication for a reduction in mammary cancer risk. Cancer Res 1997;57:5067-72.
45. Ip C. Review of the effects of trans fatty acids, oleic acid, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid on mammary carcinogenesis in animals. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;66(suppl):1523S-29S [review].
46. Parodi PW. Cows’ milk fat components as potential anticarcinogenic agents. J Nutr 1997;127:1055-60 [review].
47. Mohanty NK, Saxena S, Singh UP, et al. Lycopene as a chemopreventive agent in the treatment of high-grade prostate intraepithelial neoplasia. Urol Oncol 2005;23:383–5.
48. Studzinski GP, Moore DC. Sunlight––can it prevent as well as cause cancer? Cancer Res 1995;55:4014–22 [review].
49. John EM, Koo J, Schwartz GG. Sun exposure and prostate cancer risk: evidence for a protective effect of early-life exposure. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2007;16:1283–6.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.
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