Diet, nutrition, place, and risk for prostate cancer


A newly published paper in the journal Nutrients doesn’t tell us anything really new about the likely correlations between nutrition and risk for prostate cancer, but it does offer us some interesting information about the time frame over which such correlations may take effect.

In his paper , “A multicountry ecological study of cancer incidence rates in 2008 with respect to various risk-modifying factors,” Grant looks at how things like diet, location (i.e., latitude), smoking, and other factors affect risk for many cancers over time. (The entire text of this paper is available on line for interested readers.) The paper is also discussed in a detailed report on the Medscape web site.

With respect to prostate cancer in particular, Grant’s findings are that, over time, on a global basis, risk for prostate cancer is

    • Significantly higher for men whose diet is high in animal products in general
    • Not significantly correlated with alcohol consumption
    • Not significantly higher for men who live in countries at any one specific latitude
    • Significantly higher for men living in countries with a high gross domestic product or GDP
    • Not significantly higher for men who live in countries with higher life expectancies
    • Higher in men who use sweeteners (sugar, etc.) on a regular basis
    • Lower in men who have diets high in cereals

These results correlate well with much of the previously available data.

The really interesting thing about Grant’s study is what he reports about the time lag between starting to eat a diet high in animal products (e.g., a pretty standard American diet today — from birth until death) and onset of cancers of different types. For the majority of cancers, this time lag is of the order of 15 to 20 years. For prostate cancer it is apparently nearer to 30 years (28 years according to Grant). These data can be estimated based on things like changes in diet in nations like Japan and Korea over time and the correlations to increases in risk for a diagnosis of certain types of cancer.

The longer time lag in risk for a diagnosis of prostate cancer as compared to other cancers in relation to initiation of a diet high in energy from animal products again shows us that most (but by no means all) prostate cancers are very to develop and grow over time, which is one more reason to consider caution when considering how to act on a diagnosis of low-risk prostate cancer — even in one’s mid to late 50s.

Grant states that, at least in his opinion, the major “culprits” in the stimulation of risk for prostate cancer associated with a diet high in animal products are: excessive levels of essential amino acids, which stimulate activity of such cancer promoting products as insulin growth factor 1 (IGF1). Grant is skeptical about whether many people living in Western societies today really have the potential to moderate their intake of essential amino acids to the point at which it might really modulate risk for cancer. He further states that, “Varying protein intake within the range typical of Western societies may have little impact on cancer promotional activities” of specific nutritional factors.

2 Responses

  1. What’s your opinion using flaxseed meal as part of med-diet for treatment of PC?

  2. Dear Ralph:

    There are data both favoring and against flaxseed products as having any benefit in the management of prostate cancer … so my opinion is “the jury is still out”.

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