Image credit: FoodNavigator.com
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men after skin cancer, but it can often be treated successfully. More than 2 million men in the US count themselves as prostate cancer survivors.
After a prostate cancer diagnosis, eating a diet higher in red and processed meat, high-fat dairy foods, and refined grains known as a Western diet, may lead to a significantly higher risk of both prostate cancer-related mortality and overall mortality, compared with eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, whole grains, and healthy oils, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The study appears online in the journal, Cancer Prevention Research, that offers insight on how diet may help improve survival for the nearly three million men living with prostate cancer in the U.S.
“There is currently very little evidence to counsel men living with prostate cancer on how they can modify their lifestyle to improve survival,” said Jorge Chavarro, the senior author of the study. “Our results suggest that a heart-healthy diet may benefit these men by specifically reducing their chances of dying of prostate cancer.”
Chavarro, and fellow researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, interviewed 926 men with non-metastatic prostate cancer about their dietary habits over a five-year period. Prostate cancer is frequently slow-growing and non-aggressive and therefore, has one of the highest survival rates of any type of cancer.
The researchers recognized two types of eating habits: a “prudent” pattern, that included a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans and other legumes, and a Western pattern, made up of processed and red meats, high-fat dairy, and refined grains such as often used in processed foods.
The study then followed the men over another 10 years to see how they did. They found men who ate mostly a Western diet of processed and high-fat foods had a two-and-a-half times higher risk of dying from prostate cancer as well as a 67 percent higher risk of death overall while men who were “prudent” in their food choices had a 36 percent lower risk of dying from any cause.
Eating less processed foods, more fruits, veggies, and lean meat and fish, are cornerstones of heart-healthy diets, such as the Mediterranean diet. These diets have a long history of benefits in the scientific world. This is one of the first studies to look at the benefits for prostate cancer.
Even though the study followed men over a long period of time, the authors point out some limitations: They did not collect data on pre-diagnosis diets of the men, they did not track physical activity, and most of the 926 participants were white physicians, which might produce bias results.
“These results are encouraging and add to the scant literature on this area, but it is important to keep in mind that all study participants are physicians and most are white. Therefore, it is very important that our results are replicated in other studies with more diverse socioeconomic and racial/ethnic backgrounds,” said lead author Meng Yang, research fellow at Harvard Chan School.