Does eating mushrooms prevent prostate cancer?

Well, maybe, … at least among men living in in the Miyagi and Ohsaki prefectures, in Japan.

A newly published paper by Zhang et al. in the International Journal of Cancer reports data from a retrospective analysis of data from nearly 36,500 men who participated in two lifestyle cohort studies carried out in Japan that started in the 1990s and had an average (median) follow-up of > 13 years. The full text of this paper is available on line.

According to the available data, over a total of 574,397 person-years of follow-up:

  • 1,204 cases of prostate cancer were identified.
  • Compared to participants who ate mushrooms less than once each week, the risk for diagnosis with prostate cancer was
    • Slightly lower among participants who ate mushrooms once or twice a week (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.92)
    • Significantly lower among participants who ate mushrooms three or more times a week (HR = 0.83)
  • The inverse relationship was especially obvious among participants aged ≥ 50 years and did not differ by clinical stage of cancer or by intake of vegetables, fruit, meat, and dairy products.

So … at least in this cohort of men living in Japan in the 1990s, there is a suggestion that eating mushrooms on a frequent, regular basis may have lowered risk for a diagnosis of prostate cancer. However, …

There are a lot of things we don’t know from this study, and two of them are kinda important:

  • Precisely what types of mushrooms were the ones being eaten>
  • Can these data be generalized to other populations around the world?

The answer to the first question is that we don’t know because these data were not specifically collected (but we assume these would have been mushrooms that were common and easily available in these two areas of Japan at that time).

The answer to the second question is “probably not”. For starters we know there are distinct differences between the gasteroenterology of ethnic Japanese and persons of other ethnic groups. (Just as an example, certain types of stomach cancer are much more common in Japan than they are in North America.) And then on top of that the types of mushroom commonly eaten in Japan in the 1990s were probably not the same as the ones most commonly eastern in the “western” world in either the 1990s or today.

On the other hand, if you like eating mushrooms … it probably won’t hurt you to do so on a regular basis! And you never know, it might be beneficial in terms of risk for prostate cancer.


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