Prostate cancer: Lowering your risk
While there's no sure-fire way to prevent prostate cancer, research suggests that risk for the disease may be affected by lifestyle habits and certain medicines.
Prostate cancer is an important topic for many guys. After all, it's one of the most common cancers in men.
Unfortunately, when it comes to preventing prostate cancer, researchers are still looking for clear answers.
That doesn't mean men are completely powerless against the disease though.
Research suggests that healthy habits may potentially decrease a man's chances of getting prostate cancer or dying from the disease, and medicine has been shown to cut the risk as well.
Improve your diet
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) says it is not known whether decreasing dietary fat helps lower the risk of prostate cancer. Because of the other proven benefits of reducing dietary fat, following a diet low in fat makes sense.
For cancer protection in general, the American Cancer Society (ACS) suggests limiting fats from red meat, particularly high-fat and processed meats, and focusing on more plant foods—including five or more daily servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Researchers continue to investigate whether other dietary components or supplements can affect prostate cancer risk, such as:
Lycopene. Some studies have provided limited evidence that this antioxidant, which is obtained mostly from tomatoes and tomato products, may decrease prostate cancer risk, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). However, lycopene's potential benefit remains unproven. A recent study found no link between lycopene in the blood and prostate cancer risk.
Vitamin E and selenium. Earlier studies indicated that these antioxidants might protect against prostate cancer. However, in 2009, an NCI-funded study of more than 35,000 men found that neither supplement helped prevent the disease—and vitamin E alone may even increase the risk.
Dairy and calcium. Some research suggests that consuming a lot of calcium or dairy products can increase prostate cancer risk. However, most studies have not found an increased risk from the amount of calcium found in a typical diet. In addition, calcium is an important nutrient, so it's important to get the recommended amount, the AICR notes.
It's important to note that neither the ACS nor the AICR recommends taking a supplement for cancer prevention. If you're considering taking any dietary supplement, speak with your doctor, the ACS advises.
Watch your weight, and stay active
Most studies on the topic have not found a link between obesity and prostate cancer. However, some research suggests that obese men may be at risk for more aggressive prostate tumors and that those who develop prostate cancer tend to fare worse than their healthy weight peers.
Talk with your doctor about medicines
The medications finasteride and dutasteride have been shown to lower the risk of prostate cancer, according to the NCI. Both are in a class of drugs called 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors. They block the enzyme 5 alpha-reductase from making the hormone dihydrotesterone, which at above-normal levels may have a role in prostate cancer development.
Neither finasteride nor dutasteride are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent prostate cancer, the ACS says. Doctors can prescribe them "off-label." Men concerned about prostate cancer should discuss the potential risks and benefits of finasteride and dutasteride with their doctors.
The big picture
There's no guarantee that any of the steps listed above will prevent prostate cancer. Also, the most important risk factors—being older than 50, being African American or having a family history of the disease—can't be controlled. But you may want to talk with your doctor about some of these ideas and learn the potential signs of prostate cancer, such as frequent or difficult urination. You may also want to learn more about your risk factors for prostate cancer by taking this risk assessment.
For information about the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening, talk with your healthcare provider.