A Plant-Based Diet and Prostate Cancer

For the past 10 years I have been a member of a patient support group at an area hospital. Our purpose is to offer individual or group support to men and their partners who are facing a prostate cancer diagnosis, or who are dealing with the aftereffects of treatment. All the support group members have personally experienced prostate surgery or radiation or both.

Most often our interactions focus on treatments. One call I received was quite different. The couple had many questions concerning diet and how potential changes in their eating patterns – such as loading up on blueberries or tomatoes – could impact both the development and/or the spread of prostate cancer.

What research says about diet and cancer

I explained when it comes to diet and cancer, some research has suggested that following a plant-based system of eating may be beneficial in reducing the risk of prostate cancer. There are articles online and in various journals that suggest a focus on a plant-based diet may potentially lower the risk for heart disease as well. But do these types of dietary changes always protect you from prostate cancer?1,2

It's hard to say. Trying to do scientific studies on the effect of diet on an individual can be rather difficult. It is not like doing a clinical trial where it is easy to control the volunteer and the environment, and thus making it easier to see cause and effect.

At a prostate cancer seminar, a nutritionist mentioned to us that the incidence of prostate cancer is significantly less in Asian countries than in nations that focus on a Western style of diet. The Western style features fewer fish and vegetables.3,4

How I changed my diet

Personally, I changed my diet a few years ago and focus on the Mediterranean diet. I keep it simple by consuming fruits and vegetables daily along with oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and popcorn. I have also cut back significantly on red meats, and I have made it a point not to consume processed foods or sugar-based beverages.

I still have a weakness for 70% dark chocolate, and I have been known to have a glass of wine now and then. For the most part I have eliminated any type of hard liquor. And while studies cannot conclusively prove that what I am doing will prevent cancer or slow its growth, I find that I am feeling better and healthier all the way around.

The big picture

While my caller was hoping that a diet of blueberries and tomatoes could slow his cancer progression, he hopefully came away from our conversation realizing that a healthy diet appears to help your overall health and may or may not be beneficial when it comes to preventing prostate cancer.

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