Can You Prevent Prostate Cancer?

The best answer: Maybe. Researchers know a lot about who is most likely to get prostate cancer. They still are not quite sure why they get it. Here’s what they know. If one of these factors describes you:

  • Are over 50
  • Have a father or a brother who has had prostate cancer
  • Are African American

your risks for contracting prostate cancer are higher than for other men. African American men have the highest incidence of prostate cancer. Researchers have also found a higher incidence among men whose work brings them into frequent contact with cadmium. Still, the greatest risk factor is aging; researchers believe that most men over 80 have prostate cancer.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland beneath the bladder. It is controlled by testosterone, and it plays a major role in producing semen. One theory is that men with higher levels of testosterone are at a higher risk for prostate cancer.

Lifestyle over Genetics?

So if genetics plays such a key role in who gets prostate cancer, is there anything you can do to prevent it? Studies suggest there are several things you can do to reduce your risk for the disease:

  • For starters, improve your diet. This should come as no surprise because it seems to be a key to preventing many major illnesses.
  • Reduce the amount of red meat and other animal fats that you eat. Studies show that men who eat diets high in animal fats, such as red meats, are at a higher risk.
  • Eat a variety of foods. This not only keeps your meals interesting, it increases the chances that you’re getting a wide range of vitamins from your food.
  • Limit or stay away from trans-fatty foods, such as cakes, cookies, fried foods, and doughnuts. They raise your bad cholesterols (LDLs) and clog your arteries.
  • Don’t smoke. Again, this is no surprise. Virtually any health condition you’re likely to face will benefit from your not smoking.
  • Exercise regularly. Walking, swimming, running, bicycling, playing basketball, and other aerobic forms of exercise are great. Find something you enjoy, and then do it at least a few times a week.

Eat More of These Foods

Researchers also believe that adding certain foods to your diet can help reduce your risk, including:

  • Tomato sauce, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, salsa, watermelon, and pink grapefruit for the lycopene
  • Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and collards
  • Cruciferous foods such as cabbages, broccoli, turnips, collards, coleslaw, cauliflower, and sauerkraut
  • Omega-3–rich foods such as fish (salmon, sardines, lake trout, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, and other fatty fish), whole grains, and beans
  • Fruits that are high in vitamin C, such as citrus, berries, melons, and mango
  • Olive oil and avocado oils; both are rich in the antioxidant vitamin E
  • Red wine, red grapes, and red grape juice

It’s no coincidence that most of these also are part of many heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering diets.

Prostate cancer often can be cured when found early. This is why it’s so important to know your risk for the disease and to take action (such as the suggestions here) to prevent it. Men in high-risk groups should get tested starting at age 40. Other men should begin testing at 50. The good news is that about 85 percent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in the early stages.