Eating common foods like tomatoes and fish, maintaining healthy weight, and avoiding meats cooked at high temperatures may help prevent prostate cancer, and help men already diagnosed with the disease live healthier and longer, say experts.
Dr. Meir Stampfer, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, insists that various studies and newer technologies being used in gene research have supported the suggestion that nutrition choices may be liked to prostate cancer. "There are strong indicators in our research that diet and lifestyle are very important with this particular form of cancer," he said.
"When we look at men from other cultures like in Asia, the rates of prostate cancer are significantly lower than in the US. Yet when these same men move here, within one generation, the rates increase very rapidly. We believe there is a clear correlation to how we live and eat," he added.
June Chan of the University of California, San Francisco, has been studying the potential impact of fish oil and tomato extracts on the prostate gland prior to and after exposure in order to understand whether such interventions may help avoid need for aggressive treatments.
"What we're trying to determine is if men with low grade prostate cancer can manage their disease with these kinds of nutritional interventions and delay or avoid the need for more aggressive treatments, all of which carry a risk of side effects that can adversely affect physical function and quality of life," she said.
"In combination with other studies, the potential we see for these everyday supplements or foods to help men avoid or delay treatment is promising," she added. On the other hand, Dr. Angelo De Marzo and his colleague Dr. William G. Nelson of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins have found in mice that overheated meat may cause prostate cancer-like atrophies.
"We've known since the 1980s that ingesting meat cooked at very high temperatures can cause cellular mutations, some of which can lead specifically to prostate cancer. What we've found now in the rodent prostate is that the specific areas within the organ that develop cancer after exposure to the meat compounds also first become inflamed and develop a form of atrophy that resembles damaged areas in the human prostate that are likely a very early indicator of a problem," said Dr. De Marzo.
He believes that it may be possible for doctors to intervene before cancer develops in the prostate, if they could develop markers of damage and dietary exposures. He also suggests: "If you're going to eat meat cooked at high temperatures, like I still enjoy, flip your hamburgers more often so the outside does not burn, marinate the meat in ingredients (such as teriyaki sauce) that don't create a crust, precook it in the microwave, or at the least scrape off the charred material."
Dr. De Marzo thinks that it may be beneficial for people to replace chicken, beef, veal or lamb with soy protein or fish. "We need to be realistic: you can help reduce your chance of developing prostate cancer without becoming a vegetarian," he says.
The researchers have revealed that the main aim of their research, funded by the Prostate Cencer Foundation and the National Cancer Institute, is to determine the dietary and lifestyle changes that may help extend the lives of men with low risk prostate cancer, and completely avoid the disease in healthy men.
The findings were presented at the Prostate Cancer Foundation's Annual Scientific Retreat.