Protecting Against Prostate Cancer
When we talk about hormone-receptive cancers most people jump to breast, cervical, or ovarian cancer in women. But in men, prostate cancer cannot be left out of the discussion. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, and is fuelled by unhealthy testosterone levels. To put it into perspective, it accounts for 21% of new cancer cases in men each year, and an average of 58 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every single day. So, if you’re a man wanting to take action against these statistics, how can you decrease your risk and prevent against prostate cancer?
Who is at Higher Risk?
Some men carry a higher risk of prostate cancer. Here are some known risk factors associated with prostate cancer:
You’re male and your father or brother has been affected by prostate cancer
You are of African or Caribbean descent
You are overweight
You have an unhealthy diet (think limited fruits and veggies)
You live north of the 40th parallel (as we all are in Canada)
You’re over the age of 50
If any of these risk factors sound like you, it’s especially important to have a conversation with your medical or naturopathic doctor, and consider prevention strategies.
What can I do to Lower my Risk?
While research has yet to define an exact prevention protocol for prostate cancer, diet and lifestyle changes have been proven to lower the risk of both development and progression of prostate cancer. So here’s a breakdown of what you can do at home to protect yourself safely and effectively.
Keep Eating Those Tomatoes
It seems we can’t have a conversation about prostate health without talking about these. So while you likely already know that eating tomatoes can help to protect your prostate (thanks to all the lycopene contained in them), don't forget that there are ways you can increase the benefits (i.e. upping the bioavailability) when you eat them. If you’re gonna go through the work of eating all those tomatoes, you may as well get the most benefit from them that you can!
You can increase the bioavailability of tomatoes by:
Chopping, blending, and cooking them
Cooking and/or eating them with a healthy fat, especially olive oil.
Consider Olive Oil + Fish Consumption
This is all about what kinds of fats help protect the body and what fats harm us. Both total amount of fat and the type of fats you eat can increase the risk for prostate cancer onset and severity. Saturated fats (contained in dairy, fatty meat, and mayonnaise for example) have been linked to increased severity of prostate cancer, while monounsaturated fats (especially oleic acid which is found in olive oil) and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease prostate cancer occurence.
So do your best to add fish to your diet 2-3 times each week, as those omega-3 fatty acids can help lower inflammation and protect the prostate (as well as our heart, brain, eyes, skin, etc). And while we never want to cook with olive oil at a high heat, low heat cooking and adding raw olive oil to your meals before you eat them is a fantastic way to benefit from all the protective effects of this healthy fat source.
Avoid Grilled, Processed, Red Meat
Read the news anytime in the last few years? We have all seen the articles warning us of the carcinogenic effects of our beloved BBQ, or Braai as we say in South Africa. For men, the risks extend to prostate cancer as well. In 2015 a study was published showing that the consumption of barbecue meats increased the risk of prostate cancer by 11% and the risk of advanced prostate cancer by 28%. It seems that the more processed and the more barbequed the meats were, the higher the risk for prostate cancer became.
I won’t sit here and say that I expect you to never enjoy a nice BBQ meal again, but instead let’s talk about moderate changes, which can have significant benefit as the years go on.
Save BBQ for special events and choose to include chicken instead of just grilling up those steaks every time, variety is the spice of life after all.
When you are cooking, think low and slow, as the primary risk comes with those high heat chemical changes.
Keep your BBQ tools and grills clean! That burnt remnant of your last meal is only going to further damage the body when it sticks to your next meal, so start fresh every time.
Ready to make a change?
Prevention strategies don’t have to be extreme. Making small positive changes, thinking about your day-to-day health habits, and adding in a few protective foods can go a long way. You deserve to focus on the things in your life you care most about, without continually worrying about your prostate. We can help.
In support of your health,
Dr. Hayhlee Clarence, ND