Prostate cancer is a common cancer that affects men who are usually over the age of 60, and is relatively rare before the age of 40. The average age of diagnosis is 66. While it is more common than breast cancer is in women, affecting one out of seven men in their lifetime, it is generally far less deadly – while the American Cancer Society says that there will be approximately 180,000 cases diagnosed this year, there will only be 26,000 who will die from prostate cancer. Any death is one death too many, but for most men, a diagnosis of prostate cancer is not associated with a fatal outcome.
However, scientists have noted an aggressive form of prostate cancer that is likely to be the deadly type and that is least responsive to treatment. According to Fox News, this type has been noted in men who eat a diet high in meat and dairy products. This is likely due to high cholesterol levels, as the aggressive form of cancer was less common in those who were taking cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, regardless of what their dietary habits were. Interestingly, the link was strongest among men of European descent as compared to those of African descent, even when both had similar diets. Researchers are not sure why this is.
A recent study on aggressive prostate cancer and diet was conducted by Emma Allott of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She says that diet plays an important role in whether prostate cancer is aggressive or not.
“A diet high in saturated fat contributes to high blood cholesterol levels, which have already been linked to worse outcomes for prostate cancer.”
The methodology of the study involved comparing the relationship between prostate cancer and saturated fat in the diet, the type commonly found in red meat. The team of researchers studied data on 1,854 men with newly-diagnosed prostate cancer, including 321 men who had been diagnosed with highly aggressive prostate cancer, which was about 17 percent of the population study.
All of the men involved answered questions about their lifestyle which included demographics such as ethnicity, age, dietary habits, medications they were taking, and activities they participated in.
Using that data, the researchers calculated the amount of fat in the men’s diets, separating saturated fats from unsaturated fats, such as the kind found in fish, which is consider heart-healthy.
The results showed that the men who consumed more calories in general were at greater risk for aggressive prostate cancer, and those who had more saturated fats in their diets were also more at risk for the aggressive form of prostate cancer. For the men with prostate cancer, diets highest in saturated fats were associated with 51 percent greater risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Interestingly, cholesterol level was tied to a higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer, but only for men of European descent. Those of African descent did not share the same risk factor. The use of statin drugs to lower blood cholesterol levels was even more pronounced in lowering the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. For men with diets high in saturated fats, those who were taking statins had a 71 percent decrease in incidence of aggressive prostate cancer.
The study results indicate two important things: men should avoid diets high in saturated fats, and those who have high cholesterol should be on statins to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Stacey Kenfield, who researches lifestyle and diet factors to help prevent prostate cancer at the University of California, San Francisco, says health promotion and preventive measures are key to preventing highly aggressive forms of prostate cancer, which is good news because lifestyle changes are possible for most men.
“There are a number of things that men can do to reduce their risk of advanced or lethal prostate cancer. Not smoking, having a normal body weight, high physical activity, and high intake of tomatoes and dark meat fish (e.g., tuna, mackerel, salmon, sardines), and low intake of processed meat is also associated with a lowered risk.”
These habits have also been noted to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, two of the major killers of men.
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