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November 8, 2016

Food As Medicine
2

Beyond The “Mo” Part 1/2: Prostate Cancer Prevention

Movember is well underway, and men all across the world are growing facial hair to bring awareness to prostate cancer. The most important aspect to bring awareness to, is on how to actually prevent the disease in the first place, an area often neglected.

In this 2-part series Beyond The “Mo”, I’ll attempt to give you some understanding of the condition, and then provide you with concrete tools to put into practice right away that will help protect prostates everywhere.

What is the Prostate?

The prostate is a gland about the size of a walnut that sits below the bladder around the urethra which connects the bladder to the tip of the penis. The prostate’s job is to secrete prostatic fluid, a lubricant that enables sperm to move while protecting the urethra from infection.

Prostate cancer is a disease that mainly affects men over the age of 50, and although it is the second leading cause of death among men in North America, it is a slow-growing cancer that if detected early enough can have a 95% survival rate. 1 Like many cancers, it is most dangerous when it spreads to other parts of the body via the lymph fluid. One in seven North American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Along Came Movember

This innovative health awareness campaign was born in 2003 when two Australian friends decided to bring the “mo” or moustache back. They rallied a group of 30 friends to grow ridiculous “staches” during the month of November, charging them a modest $10 entry fee which they donated to organizations researching and helping those with prostate cancer. Flash forward ten years later and you have a worldwide movement that inspires even the most conservative of men to sport a Tom Sellek or the dream moustache of their choice.

Movember’s goal is to bring much-needed awareness to men’s health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancers, as well as mental health. It is touted as a fun and creative means of raising awareness and funds for a serious cause because its moustache-donning participants inspire conversation amongst people, particularly men.

But what is the conversation being had? And does it include prevention?

What are the signs of Prostate Cancer?

  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Trouble getting urine flowing or inability to urinate
  • Weak urine flow
  • Painful urination
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in urine/semen
  • Pain in lower back/hips 

What are the risk factors?

As already mentioned, the greatest predictor is age, with most prostate cancer diagnoses occurring in men aged 50 to 74 years. 2

Like breast cancer, prostate cancer does have a genetic component, and therefore the risk of developing the disease increases if you are a man whose father and/or brother has been diagnosed. And your risk doubles if your mother and sister have been diagnosed with breast cancer. 3 There is also an increased risk associated with a genetic variation in the COX-2 gene which regulates inflammation in the body. 4

Prostate cancer is also more common in black than in white men, and is least common in those of Asian and First Nations ancestry. However, diet and environmental factors play a huge role in prostate cancer development with a study finding that Japanese men living in North America are 6 times more likely to develop prostate cancer than those living in Japan. 5 It is also more common among married men as well as men who have had STDs. 6

High levels of testosterone (with increased 5-alpha reductase activity), as well as overall hormone imbalance including estrogen, prolactin, insulin, and IGF-1 are implicated in prostate cancer risk. 7 Studies have also concluded that male-pattern baldness, which is also indicative of testosterone imbalance, is linked to higher levels of diagnosis. 8

And of course, a huge risk factor in any disease is diet.

Foods That Protect Against Prostate Cancer

As with all conditions, we need to eat to nourish our bodies and reduce inflammation. A diet high in “bad” fats that is also low in fruits and vegetables is associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer.  Diets high in animal protein (especially barbecued and conventionally-raised) as well as dairy are inflammatory and hence, increase the risk as well.

Vegetable foods high in antioxidants and phytonutrients are protective against prostate cancer. These include foods high in lycopene (tomatoes), selenium (Brazil nuts), vitamin E (various nuts and seeds), isoflavones (organic soy), isothiocyanates (cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage), and omega-3 fatty acids (cold-water fish).

Foods For Prostate Cancer

Examples of how they work

Ground flax seed is prostate cancer-protective and also useful during treatment, as it aids in the detoxification of excess testosterone, therefore promoting hormone balance. 9 The isoflavonoids contained in soy are known to reduce the risk of prostate cancer risk, 10 although you should only consume organic soy and do so in moderation. Lycopene found in tomatoes can reduce prostate cancer risk by up to 19 per cent. 11 Garlic as a food or in supplement form also reduces prostate cancer risk by aiding in the elimination of excess testosterone. 12 The potent phytochemical sulforaphane which is found in cruciferous vegetables has been shown to reduce prostate cancer risk. 13 These are just a few of the examples of cancer-protective foods. The goal here is to increase your intake of organic, whole foods particularly fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.

In part 2  I discuss prostate supportive supplements.

References:

  1. “Men’s Health.” Movember Canada.
    <http://ca.movember.com/mens-health/prostate-cancer>.
  2. Balch, Phyllis A.. Prescription for nutritional healing: a practical A-to-Z reference to drug-free remedies using vitamins, minerals, herbs & food supplements. 5th ed. New York: Avery, 2010.
  3. Murray, Michael T. How to prevent and treat cancer with natural medicine. New York: Riverhead Books, 2002.
  4. Murray, Michael T.How to prevent and treat cancer with natural medicine. New York: Riverhead Books, 2002.
  5. Pizzorno, Joseph E.. Textbook of natural medicine. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone, 2013.
  6. Murray, Michael T.How to prevent and treat cancer with natural medicine. New York: Riverhead Books, 2002.
  7. Balch, Phyllis A.. Prescription for nutritional healing: a practical A-to-Z reference to drug-free remedies using vitamins, minerals, herbs & food supplements. 5th ed. New York: Avery, 2010.
  8. Murray, Michael T.How to prevent and treat cancer with natural medicine. New York: Riverhead Books, 2002.
  9. Balch, Phyllis A.. Prescription for nutritional healing: a practical A-to-Z reference to drug-free remedies using vitamins, minerals, herbs & food supplements. 5th ed. New York: Avery, 2010.
  10. Y. Nagata, T. Sonoda, M. Mori, et al.: Dietary isoflavones may protect against prostate cancer in Japanese men. Nagata Journal of Nutr. 137, 2007, 1974–1979.
  11. M. Etminan, B. Takkouche, F. Caamano-Isora: The role of tomato product and lycopene in the prevention of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 13, 2004, 340–345.
  12. Murray, Michael T.How to prevent and treat cancer with natural medicine. New York: Riverhead Books, 2002.
  13. Cohen, Jennifer H., Alan R. Kristal, and Janet L. Stanford. “Fruit and Vegetable Intakes and Prostate Cancer Risk.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 92.1 (2000): 61-68.

2 Comments

  1. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an really long comment
    but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say great blog!

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