Fighting Prostate Cancer: Eat Your Way to Victory
If you could reduce your risk of prostate cancer by adjusting your diet, would you do it? Some researchers believe that certain food choices might lower your chance of developing this form of cancer.
Isoflavones are compounds that are mainly found in soybeans. These compounds are phytoestrogens, which have an effect on the body that is similar to estrogen. Normally, men do not have a lot of estrogen, a female hormone, in their bodies. In order to grow, prostate cells depend on the male hormone testosterone. While much more research needs to be done, isoflavones may offer a protective benefit by increasing the estrogen-like activity in the body and lowering testosterone levels.
If you are interested in adding isoflavones to your diet, good sources include:
- Tofu—Available in most refrigerated produce or dairy sections of your local supermarket. You can make a healthy shake by blending together ½ cup (4 ounces) of tofu with a banana, orange juice, and other fruit.
- Tempeh (cake of fermented soybeans)—Yields 60 milligrams (mg).
- Soy flour—Yields 44 mg.
- Flavored soymilk—yields about 20 mg per serving
- Roasted soybeans—Packs the highest amount of isoflavone per serving—about 167 mg for a 3.5 ounce serving (or 7 tablespoons); these are available at most supermarkets and also online.
Lycopene is part of a group of compounds called carotenoids that are known for their antioxidant properties, which may include the ability to inhibit cancer. Where can you find lycopene? Watermelon and pink grapefruit contain lycopene, but tomato-based foods contain the most. When tomato-based foods are heated and mixed with a small amount of oil, the lycopene absorption is maximized. That makes cooked tomato products excellent sources of lycopene.
Will eating more tomato products lower your chance of developing prostate cancer? A systematic review of randomized trials found that there was not enough evidence to conclude if lycopene reduced prostate cancer risk. A review of 21 observational studies found that people who ate a lot of cooked tomato products did have fewer cases of prostate cancer. Howver, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed the health claims and found that there is not enough evidence to say that lycopene does reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Whether or not lycopene prevents cancer, tomatoes are still an important part of a healthy diet that should include a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic are a type of vegetable called allium. These vegetables have been studied for their potential anti-cancer benefits. A study that examined a large amount of data from China found that people who ate a lot of onions and garlic had a reduced risk of prostate cancer, as well as other common types of cancer. Scallions, chives, and leaks are also allium vegetables that you might want to add to your diet.
Other Popular Foods
Vitamin E, Vitamin C, selenium, and green tea have also often been advertised and studied for their possible prostate cancer abilities. At best, there is mixed evidence that they can actually help prevent prostate cancer in people. Selenium may even increase the risk of prostate cancer.
What Other Changes Can You Make?
The effects of dietary changes on prostate cancer have not been proven. However, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that you be physically active and maintain a healthy weight to lower your risk of prostate cancer. Also, try to eat at least 2½ cups (20 ounces) of fruits and vegetables each day.
National Cancer Institute
Prostate Cancer Foundation
Ambrosi G, Klerk N, Fritschi L, Mackerras D, Musk B. Fruit, vegetable, vitamin A intakes, and prostate cancer risk. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2008;11(1):61-66.
Can prostate cancer be prevented? American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-prevention. Updated March 11, 2016. Accessed June 23, 2016.
Etminan M, Takkouche B, Caamaño-Isorna F. The role of tomato products and lycopene in the prevention of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004;13(13);340-345.
Gaziano JM, Glynn RJ, Christen WG, et al. Vitamins E and C in the prevention of prostate and total cancer in men: the Physicians' Health Study II randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2009;301(1):52-62.
Green tea. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated December 15, 2015. Accessed June 23, 2016.
How many men get prostate cancer? American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/overviewguide/prostate-cancer-overview-key-statistics. Updated September 12, 2014. Accessed June 23, 2016.
Hsing AW, Chokkalingam AP, Gao YT, et al. Allium vegetables and risk of prostate cancer: a population-based study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2002;94(21):1648-1651.
Ilic D, Forbes KM, Hassed C. Lycopene for the prevention of prostate cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;94(21):1648-1651.
Isoflavones. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated December 15, 2015. Accessed June 23, 2016.
Lycopene. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated December 15, 2015. Accessed June 23, 2016.
Prevention of prostate cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 13, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2013.
Vitamin E. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated December 15, 2015. Accessed June 23, 2016.
2/24/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Kristal A, Darke A, Morris JS, et al. Baseline selenium status and effects of selenium and vitamin E supplementation on prostate cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2014;106(3):djt456
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 6/23/2016