Tips for Lowering Prostate Cancer Risk.
First, the bad news: prostate cancer affects more Canadian men than any other cancer, comprising 21% of all new cancers diagnosed in men last year. Even more troubling is the fact that 10% of all cancer deaths in men are from prostate cancer. To put it another way, 1 out of every 7 men in Canada will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives, with 1 in 29 dying from it. What’s worse is that many of the risk factors for developing prostate cancer are more or less unchangeable, from age (over 80% of prostate cancers are diagnosed in males over the age of 65), to ethnicity (black males have a higher overall incidence of prostate cancer, as well as an increased risk of both early diagnosis as well as developing a more aggressive form of the disease). Genetic mutations to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, most commonly associated with breast and ovarian cancer, can also increase risk of prostate cancer, along with mutations to other genes including HPC1, HPC2, HPCX, and CAPB.
With that out of the way, let’s spend the rest of this post delving into the good news. To begin with, prostate cancer mortality rates have improved significantly over the past twenty years, with more and more men surviving their disease thanks in part to increased screening. In addition, the influx of research identifying changeable risk factors has helped many more men avoid this disease in the first place. While it is not possible to completely eliminating one’s risk of developing cancer, there are still an ever-growing number of ways to lower the risk.
From a dietary perspective, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, along with decreased animal fat, appear to play a role in reducing risk. Even better, drinking one or two glasses of red wine each day has been shown to offer sufficient amounts of the antioxidant resveratrol to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells (and, arguably less excitingly, so did regular consumption of green tea). In keeping with the Mediterreanean diet theme, try adding a little garlic, and sprinkling in some ginger, oregano and rosemary to your food, with all three spices shown in research to inhibit inflammatory compounds like COX-2, which play a pivotal role in prostate cancer development.
Moving on to lifestyle modification, there’s the matter of “male pattern baldness”–or rather, a recently discovered side-benefit to its treatment. In a study involving the common hair loss treatment drug finasteride (aka. Propecia), use of the medication was linked with decreased incidence of prostate cancer. This makes sense, as the drug was designed to inhibit a primary cause of hair loss in men–the activity of the hormone dihydrotestosterone, which, incidentally, is also a significant driver for prostate growth. Last, but arguably not least, is the association between frequency of ejaculation and prostate cancer incidence. Specifically, in a study of over 2300 Australian men, it was shown that ejaculating at least five times each week was associated with a 34% decreased risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer by the age of 70.
So despite the continued prevalence of prostate cancer among Canadian men, it’s empowering to know that we’re not simply resigned to sitting idly by, awaiting the diagnosis. There is no shortage of proven strategies for reducing the risk that can be readily incorporated into one’s routine.
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Erik Boudreau, ND