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Home > Living Well > Health Library > Prostate Cancer Prevention (Holistic)
Add plenty of tomato, soy, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts), and fish to your meals
50 IU a day of this supplement may help lower prostate cancer risks
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
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.
Several studies have reported that the risk of prostate cancer increases with increasing body weight.1, 2
Fish eaters have been reported to have low risk for prostate cancer. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are thought by some researchers to be the components of fish responsible for protection against 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, possibly due to several substances found in them, such as indole-3-carbinol, glucaric acid (calcium D-glucarate), and sulforaphane. 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. 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.
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.
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. Evidence of a protective effect for tomato consumption was stronger for prostate cancer than for most other cancers.
When combined with a low-fiber diet, men consuming a high-fat diet have been reported to have higher levels of testosterone, which might increase their risk of prostate cancer. The risk of prostate cancer correlates with dietary fat from country to country, a finding supported in some, but not all, 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, according to an analysis of most published reports.
Meat contains high amounts of arachidonic acid. Some by-products of arachidonic acid have promoted prostate cancer in animals. Preliminary reports have suggested that frequently eating well-done steak or cured meats 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.
Selenium has been reported to have diverse anticancer actions. Selenium inhibits cancer in animals. Low soil levels of selenium (probably associated with low dietary intake), have been associated with increased cancer incidence in humans. Blood levels of selenium have been reported to be low in patients with prostate cancer. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
Relatively high blood levels of vitamin E have been associated with relatively low levels of hormones linked to prostate cancer. 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. Both findings were statistically significant. 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%. 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. 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. 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.
1. Talamini R, La Vecchia C, Decarli A, et al. Nutrition, social factors and prostatic cancer in a Northern Italian population. Br J Cancer 1986;53:817-21.
2. Andersson S-O, Wolk A, Bergstrom R, et al. Body size and prostate cancer: a 20-year follow-up study among 135,006 Swedish construction workers. J Natl Cancer Inst 1997;89:385-9.
Last Review: 06-08-2015
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