The Prostate Cancer Survivor’s Guide to Eating

Prostate Cancer, Nuts, Death, and Spin

Prostate Cancer, Nuts, Death, and SpinAlmost everyone I know has somehow been touched by cancer. There are many different types of cancer, but among men, prostate cancer is the most common kind. One in six men in the U.S. are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year but if caught early, there is a very high survival rate. The healthcare system and researchers have really improved one’s prognosis. By putting research into practice, many guidelines have been created to help prevent cancer or its recurrence.

I’m sure many people have heard about anti-cancer diets and have adopted other lifestyle modifications to help prevent cancer. Based on current research, men with prostate cancer are able to take control and prevent recurrence or aggressiveness of tumor growth through diet and lifestyle choices.

The World Cancer Research Fund has created lifestyle recommendations in order to decrease the overall risk for those at high risk and to prevent recurrence of cancer. There are eight recommendations and include specifications for:

  • Ideal ranges of body mass index
  • Physical activity levels
  • Consumption of low caloric dense foods (less than 125 calories per 100 grams of food)
  • Consumption of fruits and non-starchy vegetables, salt, legumes, unrefined grains, and red meat.

But do these guidelines prevent cancer? UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center published the first study evaluating strict adherence to these recommendations and found a significant link between those that adhered to these recommendations and a decreased risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

The study included 2,212 men, aged 40 to 70, who were newly diagnosed with prostate cancer. The men who failed to adhere to at least four of the recommendations had a 38% increased risk of having an aggressive tumor, compared to those who adhered to four or more of the recommendations.

The recommendations that had the most protective effects were:

  • Consuming less than 500 grams of red meat per week
  • Consuming food products with less than 125 calories per 100 grams of food per day.

Other researchers have looked into these anti-cancer diets as well. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco evaluated the effects of fat consumption in 4,577 men previously diagnosed with non-metastatic prostate cancer. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine, found that replacing 10% of energy intake from carbohydrates with vegetable fats such as canola or olive oils, nuts, seeds, or avocados, could decrease risk of lethal prostate cancer by almost 30%.

However, when replacing trans fats and saturated fats with vegetable fats, significant results were not found for reducing tumor aggressiveness but were found for reduced risk of overall mortality.

The research continues to show that diet can play a role to prevent cancer. An animal study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois evaluated the effects of consuming tomatoes and soy and the growth of cancerous prostate tumors. There were four groups, with rats exposed to one of the following diets: 10% whole tomato powder; 2% soy germ; tomato powder and soy germ; and a control group (with no tomato or soy germ). The group with the combination of both soy and tomato had the greatest improvement. This study suggests that consuming three to four servings of tomatoes per week and one to two servings of soy foods per day can have a protective effect against prostate cancer.

Evidence has shown that the lycopene found in tomatoes and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower may decrease the risk of prostate cancer; therefore it is encouraged to include a wide variety of vegetables in your diet as they are full of tons of great nutrients that have many cancer-fighting properties. Although evidence is limited, animal foods such as processed and red meat, as well as milk and dairy products, may increase the risk. Consuming foods high in saturated fat have been linked to a higher risk, whereas omega-3 fats have been associated with lower risk. And one of the most important things to know about anti-cancer diets is that obesity has been strongly linked to a higher risk of prostate cancer. Therefore a heart healthy diet that is rich in vegetables and reduces inflammation, cholesterol and obesity is the best choice to improve overall health and decrease your risk of cancer.

“Prostate,” Nutrition Care Manual 2012;, last accessed July 10, 2013. Access only by subscription.
Freedland, S.J., “Dietary Fat and Reduced Prostate Cancer Mortality: Does the Type of Fat Matter? Comment on “Fat Intake After Diagnosis and Risk of Lethal Prostate Cancer and All-Cause Mortality” Dietary Fat and Reduced Prostate Cancer Mortality,” JAMA Internal Medicine 2013:1-2.
Richman, E.L., et al., “Fat intake after diagnosis and risk of lethal prostate cancer and all-cause mortality,” JAMA Internal Medicine 2013:1-8.
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), “Soy and tomato may be effective in preventing prostate cancer,” ScienceDaily website, May 8, 2013;, last accessed July 8, 2013.
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences, “Eating right, exercise may help prostate cancer patients reduce risk of aggressive tumors,” ScienceDaily website, June 29, 2013;, last accessed July 8, 2013.