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Scientists don’t know exactly what causes prostate cancer and there is no one answer to how to avoid prostate cancer. Researchers, however, have studied certain preventive measures and determined they have the potential to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. They have evaluated other measures and found that the evidence supporting their effect on prostate cancer development is inconclusive.
Other preventive strategies have simply not been studied adequately for organizations to recommend their use. Finally, some recommendations regarding prostate cancer prevention have been made based on known risk factors but have not been thoroughly studied.
Expert Advice on How to Avoid Prostate Cancer
Certain factors have been identified as increasing your risk of developing prostate cancer. As such, many doctors advise that you take the following steps to avoid high-risk factors, even if the evidence is lacking. Guidelines to follow:
- Exercise: Exercise provides many health benefits including the proven reduction of the risk of other types of cancers, heart disease, and diabetes. Exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight, which is important for many reasons—not the least of which is that obesity is a risk factor for prostate cancer.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Research has demonstrated that obese men (those with a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher) are at increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Eat a Low-Fat Diet: Some studies have shown that men with high dietary fat consumption, particularly animal fat, have an increased risk of prostate cancer. As a result, some doctors encourage patients to get their fat from plant sources such as olive oil, nuts, or seeds and to reduce their total fat intake.
- Watch your dairy and calcium consumption: Some studies have shown that men with high amounts of dairy and/or calcium (whether in food or supplements) in their diet have a slightly increased risk of prostate cancer.
- Stop smoking: Smoking is a known risk factor for a number of different diseases. There is some evidence that smoking also increases your risk of developing prostate cancer. One study demonstrated that men who quit smoking prior to developing prostate cancer may delay the development of the disease or have a less aggressive form of cancer. It is hard to argue against the idea that smoking cessation would benefit your overall health. (For advice on kicking the habit, see Dr. Leonaura Rhodes’s post “How to Quit Smoking: 6 Steps to Success.”)
NIH: How to Avoid Prostate Cancer
The only two measures that the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute endorses as “protective factors that may decrease the risk of prostate cancer” are:
- Eat a diet rich in folate-containing foods: A 10-year study found that men whose diet was rich in folate-containing foods had a significantly reduced risk of prostate cancer. Interestingly, though, men who took a dietary supplement of 1 milligram of folate had an increased risk of prostate cancer.
- Finasteride or dutasteride treatment: Researchers studied these five alpha-reductase inhibitor medications in two large trials looking at whether or not they reduced the risk of prostate cancer. Both medications were associated with an overall lower risk of prostate cancer, but a higher risk of more aggressive cancers. The overall lower risk was due to a lower incidence of less aggressive prostate cancers. What is not known is whether these drugs lower the overall death rate from prostate cancer. As a result, their use as preventive strategies remains controversial.
Prostate Cancer Research Says…
An interesting development in how to avoid prostate cancer has been the determination that some factors previously thought to have a protective effect against prostate cancer have actually proven to have no effect or even to increase your risk:
- Selenium: A large-scale trial of over 35,000 men looked at whether or not selenium supplements had a preventative effect on the development of prostate cancer and determined that selenium supplements alone or with vitamin E did not reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
- Vitamin E: The same trial that evaluated selenium found that vitamin E supplements taken alone actually increased the risk of prostate cancer.
Research trials evaluating prevention strategies for prostate cancer are ongoing. If you’re interested in such trials, you should consult your doctor or click this link to visit the National Cancer Institute.
Originally published in 2016, this post is regularly updated.