Prostate Cancer: Prevention

While many people may wonder how to prevent prostate cancer, there’s no one way to avoid the disease. Staying healthy as you age, or working to reverse existing health problems, can lower your risk. However, like all cancers, prostate cancer has certain risk factors that cannot be avoided.

Things You Can’t Change: Age, Race and Genes

Prostate cancer is primarily a “disease of aging.” As you get older, your chances of developing prostate cancer increase. Race and genetics also play a significant role. If you are African American, your chances of developing prostate cancer are double those of white American men. If your father, brother or multiple blood relatives had prostate cancer, you are more likely to get it, too.

Preventing prostate cancer might be difficult if you have these risk factors, but screening early and often can help ensure that if you do get cancer, it’s diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

Things You Can Change: Diet and Lifestyle

Men in western countries have much higher rates of prostate cancer than men in Asia. While no one can definitively explain this phenomenon, experts suspect differences in eastern and western diets are to blame. Poor eating habits and diets that heavily rely on fats and animal proteins can cause DNA damage and lead to cancer.

Even men who are already at greater risk due to age, race or genetics can reduce their chances of developing prostate cancer by adopting healthy diets and lifestyles.

Improve Your Diet

Researchers don’t completely understand the relationship between diet and prostate cancer prevention, but studies suggest that certain eating habits may help.

  • Reduce fat intake. Eat less trans fats and saturated fats. Focus on healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids from nuts, seeds and fish.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Incorporate a wide variety of produce, including plenty of leafy greens. The antioxidant lycopene, which is plentiful in cooked or processed tomatoes, has been shown in some studies to slow the growth of prostate cancer cells. Cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli and cauliflower) contain a compound called sulforaphane that may protect against cancer.

  • Add green tea and soy. Clinical trials have suggested that soy may lower PSA levels, and that green tea may help men who are at high risk for prostate cancer lower their risk.

  • Avoid charred meat. Charred meat, from frying or grilling at high temperatures, may produce a chemical compound that leads to cancer.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obesity can be a risk factor for developing more aggressive prostate cancer. In general, losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight as you age can help reduce your risk of cancer and many other health problems.

Get Regular Exercise

In addition to helping you achieve a healthy weight, exercise can reduce inflammation, improve immune function and fight some of the negative health effects of a sedentary lifestyle—all of which can help prevent cancer.

Stop Smoking and Drink Less

Quitting smoking can improve your health in many ways, including lowering your cancer risk. And if you drink, do so in moderation. Some studies suggest that red wine has antioxidant properties that may benefit your health.

Increase Your Vitamin D

Most people don’t get enough vitamin D. It can help protect against prostate cancer and many other conditions. Vitamin D-rich foods include cod liver oil, wild salmon and dried shitake mushrooms. Since the sun is a better, more readily available source of vitamin D, many experts recommend getting 10 minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen) every day. Doctors often recommend vitamin D supplements. However, you should talk to your doctor before taking any vitamin or supplement.

Stay Sexually Active

Two studies appear to show that men who have a higher frequency of ejaculation (with or without a sexual partner) were up to two-thirds less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Studies are ongoing, but some experts theorize that ejaculation clears the body of toxins and other substances that could cause inflammation.

Drugs to Prevent Prostate Cancer

Men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) are often treated with dihydrotestosterone (DHT)-lowering drugs called finasteride or dutasteride. These drugs have been studied extensively to determine whether they can prevent prostate cancer, and results suggest that they could reduce cancer risk by about 25 percent. Patients who develop cancer while on the drugs are more likely to get an aggressive form of the disease, so discuss the advantages and disadvantages with your doctor.


More Information About Prostate Cancer from Johns Hopkins Medicine

Combat Prostate Cancer with Exercise

Urologist Michael Johnson explains the connection between prostate cancer and exercise. He also offers tips for getting started with a new workout routine.

How can you protect your prostate? Johns Hopkins urologist H. Ballentine Carter offers tips.

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