Prostate cancer, like any cancer, is a complicated disease with many routes of diagnosis and treatment. The following article is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of the disease by any stretch, and certainly not intended to diagnose or treat it. It is, instead, it’s a potentially helpful summation of research that might aid in one’s search for answers in order to decide a course of action and/or in preventing prostate cancer through the use of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
First, let’s talk a little science.
What is Prostate Cancer and How Do You Get It?
Prostate cancer is a major health concern for American men. The disease is rare for men below age 50. That said, most experts believe that the majority elderly men have traces of it.
This year, doctors will diagnose 238,500 new cases in the U.S.. About 29,700 of those will be fatal.
So, What is the Prostate?
Not to get too personal, but your prostate is a gland in a man’s reproductive system. It creates most of the semen that carries sperm. Roughly the size of a walnut, the prostate gland is located beneath the bladder. It surrounds the upper part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder.
Prostate cancer, like most cancers, starts when one cell starts multiplying uncontrollably. The cell divides over and over, then those cells glob up and become a mass that starts to invade nearby tissues.
Roughly 80% of cases of prostate cancer occur in men over 65. Fewer than 1% of cases are in men under 50. And yes, genetics do play a role, as men with a family history of the disease are more likely to get it.
Older and/or African-American men are more likely to get prostate cancer and have the highest mortality rate. But in Asia, Africa, and Latin America — prostate cancer is rare.
Why? We can not necessarily point the finger at one cause.
That said, 80-90% of cancers are attributable to environmental factors, smoking, and diet.
A man in Hong Kong (Asia) has only half the risk of developing prostate cancer compared to a man in Sweden (Western/European). He also has only 1/8th the risk of dying from it.
Diet as a Factor in Contracting Prostate Cancer
Among other factors, prostate cancer has been linked to animal products. This includes animal milk, meat, eggs, cheese, cream, and butter.
Prostate cancer tends to be far less common in vegetarians and people who consume more rice, soy, and green or yellow vegetables.
There are two reasons for this. Fat has proven to be a causal factor in the disease, as it stimulates the production of testosterone. When this happens, it fuels the growth of prostate cells. This can lead to benign prostate enlargement, as well as the potential growth of cancer cells.
This doesn’t mean fat, itself, is a bad thing. But excess intake of fat can catalyze the process described above.
The second reason has to do with fiber. Fiber turns to roughage, which helps in removing testosterone from the body. Excess testosterone can lead, again, to the overgrowth of male sex cells, which can lead to prostate cancer. Grains, soy, fruits, and vegetables help bring more fiber to the body, which again, pushes the excess testosterone from the body.
How this works: As your liver filters blood, it skims out testosterone and pushes it into the bile duct, then through your small intestine. There, fiber soaks it up and removes it, along with additional waste.
Foods like fish, chicken, eggs, and other animal products don’t contain fiber. When you eat them, there’s nothing to push the waste testosterone away (as is the case with the fiber). Therefore, it gets reabsorbed into the bloodstream, where it becomes active again.
Helping Prevent Prostate Cancer
There’s no conclusive evidence that any one way of eating or living will completely safeguard your body prostate cancer.
That said, you can take plenty of preventative measures to fight or reverse the disease. And they all begin with diet.
As recommended by the American Cancer Society…
- Start by limiting high-fat foods. This includes animal protein and dairy, as well as watching your intake of tree nuts, oils, etc.
- Go (Close) to Veg. A vegetarian or vegan diet is typically lower in fat and higher in fiber. If you’re not ready to go completely meatless, back off on red meat; especially processed like hot dogs, bologna, and most lunch meats.
- Eat Five to Stay Alive. Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day to get not only the fiber, but all those vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that will keep your body running strong. Assuming you also eat grains, focus on more whole grains as opposed to refined flours.
- To B12 or Not to B12. Many people, especially vegetarians, tend to lack regular, healthy sources of vitamin B12. Without it, you’re at greater risk for developing anemia. You can get B12 from a multivitamin, fortified soymilk or cereal, a B12 supplement of 5 mcg or more a day.
As I stated at the top, this is not a comprehensive look at prostate cancer, nor its diagnosis or treatment. Rather, take it as a a little nudge to focus more on your fruits and veggies (and grains), and back off of the animal protein and highly-concentrated fat sources. Get (at least) those five servings of fruits and veggies everyday to keep that fiber pushing things through your body.
Your Vitamix makes it easy to do this. Have a smoothie in the morning with at least a serving or two of kale, spinach, or some other type of nutrient-dense green thrown in. Put together a soup with carrots, spinach, etc. for dinner. And blend up an ice cream at night with those secret carrots, spinach, kale, squash, and other mild vegetables that don’t show up in the flavor.
By adding these into your diet on a regular basis, not only are you lowering your risks for prostate cancer, but you’re probably just going to feel better, too.