We all know that making changes to an unhealthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of diseases such as coronary heart disease or diabetes. But what is the evidence that such lifestyle changes may also be valuable in reducing the risk of prostate cancer?
With respect to diet, it is known that the incidence of prostate cancer in Asia is increasing in parallel with the rising consumption of a Western-style diet. In a recent study the incidence of prostate cancer in Singapore rose by 5.6% per annum between 1968 and 2002. During the same period the mortality from the disease increased 5.8 times.
In a study from the 1980s, prostate cancer mortality correlated strongly with the intake of dietary fat. Yet in a recent prospective study of 142,520 European men, there was no clear association found between dietary fat and prostate cancer. Similar uncertainties exist about a link between obesity and prostate cancer.
Evidence on meat consumption and the risk of prostate cancer is somewhat stronger, but still far from conclusive. In a review of 22 studies on dietary meat, 16 showed a positive correlation and the association was strongest for processed meats and those grilled with charcoal.
A further aspect of lifestyle to consider in terms of reducing prostate cancer risk is the intake of dietary vitamin D and exposure to sunlight. Prostate cells contain vitamin D receptors as well as enzymes necessary for vitamin D metabolism. Although again the evidence is conflicting, it’s thought that a diet containing 600 IU of vitamin D and sunlight exposure without sunscreen of around 20 minutes per day may be beneficial.
So, although there is some circumstantial evidence, on the basis of studies to date it is still unclear whether lifestyle modification is capable of significantly reducing the risk of prostate cancer. What’s more, the results of recent large-scale studies have provided conflicting evidence for dietary agents (such as selenium) that were previously thought to have a positive association.
However, reducing your intake of saturated fats and red (especially barbequed) meats, and increasing the amount of regular, reasonably strenuous exercise, ideally out of doors in the sunlight, will certainly do no harm. And of course these things should also give you some protection against the development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.