If you don’t have a prostate, chances are you know someone who does. (You may even wish to forward them this newsletter!) As a very common spot for cancer in men, it’s an important organ to take care of. In fact, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American men, and most elderly men have some abnormal prostate cells. Still, the cause of prostate cancer is unclear. Some of the risk factors include family history, age, and diet.
Here are some proven strategies to lower your risk:
Selenium is a mineral with significant anti-oxidant properties. An article published in JAMA back in 1996 showed that supplementation with selenium reduced the chances of dying from any disease by 20%, and reduced the chances of dying from cancer by 50%! 1 A more recent study out of New Zealand in the Journal of Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics found that men with the lowest selenium levels had the highest incidence of prostate disease.2 Another study took 1,300 men and split them in two groups. The first group took 200 mcg of selenium a day, the second a placebo. The striking result was that the overall risk of prostate cancer was almost 50 percent lower in the selenium group.3 The SU.VI.MAX trial of over 5,000 men found similar results: those who took selenium with normal PSA levels at the beginning of the study saw their risk for prostate cancer drop more than fifty percent.4 I take 200 micrograms every day. You won’t find enough in fruits and vegetables today. The best dietary sources of selenium are organ meats (one chicken liver = 140 mcg), garlic, Brazil nuts (one nut = 100 mcg), or fish.
Zinc also appears to play an important role in maintaining prostate health, but the precise function of zinc in the prostate is unknown. Several studies have implicated poor zinc levels in the development and progression of prostate cancer. There is also some evidence that increased dietary zinc is associated with a decrease in the incidence of prostate cancer. Changes in intracellular zinc can dramatically affect DNA damage and repair, and, hence, the risk of cancer. The current theory is that dietary zinc deficiency will increase a man’s risk for oxidative DNA damage in prostate cells. Because it is a component of many DNA repair proteins, zinc plays an important role in protecting DNA from damage. Zinc also functions as an anti-inflammatory agent and can promote “programmed cell death”, or apoptosis, which is the body’s way of getting rid of damaged cells. Thus, zinc supplementation has the potential to target multiple points in the prostate cancer cascade.5 I recommend supplementing 10-40 mg per day.
3. Soy Isoflavones
Soyfoods are a unique dietary source of isoflavones, which have both hormonal and non-hormonal effects relevant to prostate cancer prevention. In the lab it has been shown that the main soybean isoflavone, genistein, inhibits prostate cancer cell growth. In animal studies as well, isoflavones inhibit prostate cancer development. Current results from a pilot intervention trial suggest isoflavones may be beneficial to human prostate cancer patients.6 Men concerned about their prostate health may consider incorporating soy into their diet.
4. Saw Palmetto
Some clinical studies have found that saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) relieves symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate, such as difficult and frequent urination. However, at this time there are no available study results that show that saw palmetto can prevent or treat prostate cancer. A review published in 2002 looked at 21 clinical studies on saw palmetto conducted over the last 30 years and involving more than 3,000 patients. The report concluded that saw palmetto provided mild to moderate improvement in urinary symptoms such as frequent nighttime urination and problems with urine flow. The improvements were similar to those seen in men who took the prescription drug finasteride (Proscar®) for BPH. Saw palmetto also caused fewer and milder side effects than finasteride.7 Chemicals in saw palmetto berries called sterols are said to interfere with the ability of hormones such as testosterone and dihydro-testosterone to cause prostate cells to grow. Saw palmetto supplements are available as capsules, tablets, extracts, and as a tea. There is no standard dosage. In some clinical studies for the treatment of BPH, patients received 320 milligrams per day as a single dose or divided into 2 doses. A recent study showed wide variation in the contents of different brands of saw palmetto supplements. I take a pharmaceutical-grade supplement from Metagenics called “Ultra Prostagen” which contains 320 mg of saw palmetto.
To your continued good prostate health!
Your partner in wellness,
Dr Grant Pagdin, MD
2. Karunasinghe N, Han D, Goudie M, Zhu S, Bishop K, Wang A, Duan H, Lange K, Ko S, Medhora R, Kan S, Masters J, Ferguson L. “Prostate Disease Risk Factors among a New Zealand Cohort.” J Nutrigenet Nutrigenomics. 2013 Jan 26;5(6):339-351.
3. Combs et al. “Reduction of cancer risk with an oral supplement of selenium.”Biomedical and Environmental Sciences. 1997. 10(2-3):227-34.
4. Meyer et al. “Antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplementation and prostate cancer prevention in the SU.VI.MAX trial.” International Journal of Cancer. 2005. 116(2):182-6.
6. Messina, MJ. “Emerging evidence on the role of soy in reducing prostate cancer risk.” Nutr Rev. 2003 Apr;61(4):117-31.
7. Wilt T, Ishani A, Mac Donald R. “Serenoa repens for benign prostatic hyperplasia.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(3):CD001423.
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