Diet and the environment

There is a great deal of circumstantial evidence that appears to support the idea that diet is important in risk for and avoidance of prostate cancer. However, despite a great deal of effort to prove connections between diet and prostate cancer, we have totally failed to do this.

Several years ago, one major study appeared to clearly link prostate cancer risk with saturated fat in people’s diets. However, this is an hypothesis that is still waiting for definitive proof. The most likely situation is that a good, well balanced diet which is high in fruit and vegetables and relatively low in red meat and fats will be better for you than a diet that is high in red meat and fats. This is true generally, and has nothing especially to do with prostate cancer! Eating well is good for you! There is no known diet that will prevent prostate cancer — and there probably never will be!

Having said that, it is work emphasizing that, “A heart-healthy diet is a prostate-healthy diet.” If you eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly, you are likely to live longer because of the impact on your heart function. It may also reduce your risk for prostate cancer — but we can’t be certain.

Roughly the same is true of the environment. The cleaner your environment the less likely you are to be at risk of prostate cancer. But then that is true for nearly all cancers, and explains why smoking is such a particularly foolish thing to do if you want to avoid cancer. Smoking introduces pollutants directly into your lungs, and from there to almost every other organ of the body. Once again, however, there is no perfectly clean environment that will allow you to live without the risk of prostate cancer!

Having said that, why is it that (historically) when Asian males emigrated from Asia to America their risk of prostate cancer rose so rapidly? Was it the change in diet? Was it the change in the environment? Was it just that they were more likely to get tested for prostate cancer in America than they were in Asia? Is that situation the same today as it was 20 years ago?

What is going on? Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that diets and pollution levels in  some Asian countries have become “Americanized” (at least in the major cities and industrial areas). Will we see rising levels of prostate cancer in China as levels in America have been falling? This has already been suggested by one group of Chinese medical scientists.

Content on this page last reviewed and updated March 16, 2014.
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