The Latest On Protecting The Prostate From Cancer, Enlargement And More

Most men will experience a prostate problem at some point in their lives because much can go awry with this walnut-sized gland beneath the bladder. The most common conditions include prostatitis?inflammation of the prostate?which can cause pain and can interfere with urination and sexual functioning, and benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)?enlargement of the prostate?which causes frequent urination, but does not impair sexual function.

Scarier is prostate cancer, the most frequent cancer in men over age 50. It has a high cure rate if detected early, but undetected it can be deadly.

The good news, however, is that with all that can go wrong, there is much that can be done to protect the prostate. Here’s how.

Watch Your Weight. Being overweight may not increase the likelihood of prostate cancer, but can interfere with its detection. Researchers have found that the more overweight a man is, the more likely he is to have low levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a blood marker used to screen for prostate cancer. This misleading reading makes the usual PSA cutoffs values unreliable, possibly hampering a timely cancer diagnosis. Also, research suggests that excess weight is linked to higher rates of recurrence of prostate cancer.

Stay Active. Being inactive?in essence sitting on your prostate?is not good for this gland. Research shows that regular vigorous exercise defends against the development of prostate cancer as well as slowing progression of the disease once it’s started. Even moderate exercise can offer prostate protection. One study, in particular, found that men who walked two to three hours a week had a 25% lower risk of BPH.

De-Stress. Managing stress may be helpful to prostate health. Some research involving laboratory animals found that stress increases production of a hormone called prolactin, which may promote prostate inflammation. Many men have reaped relief from prostatitis symptoms by engaging in daily meditation and deep relaxation techniques. And some research hints at a link between stress management and slowed cancer cell growth in men with early-stage prostate cancer.

Add An Array of Nutrients. A variety of nutrients and phytonutrients seem to be pivotal for the prostate, specifically for curbing prostate cancer. Among the most studied is lycopene, a carotenoid found abundantly in cooked tomato products. But most research linking lycopene to reduced prostate cancer has been with lycopene-rich foods rather than with lycopene supplements. Moreover, not every study shows benefits. Research published earlier this year found no prostate protection from lycopene, except in men with a family history of prostate cancer.

Eating plenty of vegetables other than tomatoes is beneficial as well. In one study, men who ate three servings a week of cruciferous vegetables reduced their prostate cancer risk by 41%, presumably because these veggies are chock full of cancer-fighting phytonutrients.

Selenium, an antioxidant mineral, has shown promise fending off prostate cancer. Men diagnosed with prostate cancer who had the highest blood levels of selenium were nearly 50% less likely to progress to advanced disease over 13 years than men with the lowest levels.

There is also accumulating evidence that vitamin D defends against prostate cancer. And yet calcium, often a partner to D, may be a contributor to the disease. This means you need to balance getting plenty of D with moderate amounts of calcium (see chart, right).

Fine-Tune Fat. Whether because of saturated fat or other potential cancer contributors like nitrites, heterocylic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, red meat has been branded as a promoter of prostate cancer. But men who eat a lot of fatty fish, possibly because of the omega-3 fatty acids they supply, experience less prostate cancer.

An omega-3 fat from plants called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), however, has raised some concern. Too much ALA, such as that found in flaxseed oil supplements, may actually increase prostate cancer risk. Eating flaxseed (or flax meal) instead of resorting to pills seems to be a safer choice.

Decrease Irritants. Certain culprits like cigarette smoke and excessive amounts of caffeine and spicy foods may aggravate the genitourinary tract, worsening symptoms associated with BPH and prostatitis. Chili peppers, however, may inhibit the growth of prostate cancer. Capsaicin, the compound that gives chilies their fire, seems to cause prostate cancer cells to self-destruct in laboratory tests.

Drinking alcohol may be irritating for some men, but there is also research showing, ironically, that men who imbibe have fewer prostate symptoms. If you do drink, however, do so in moderation, with a limit of two drinks a day.

?Linda Antinoro, J.D., R.D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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