Two recent studies offer an explanation why almost all North American men will develop prostate cancer if they live long enough, while the incidence of prostate cancer in men living in rural China is close to zero. One study shows that high blood sugar and insulin levels, high cholesterol, and diabetes all increase risk for developing prostate cancer (Horm Cancer, April 2016;7(2):75-83). In the other study, saturated fats in meat markedly increased risk for men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer of dying from that disease, while eating polyunsaturated fats in vegetables reduced their risk of dying from their prostate cancer (Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, April 19, 2016).
These studies move us closer to thinking that prostate cancer, like heart attacks, is a disease of an overactive immunity (called inflammation). High blood sugar levels, particularly fructose, turn on a man’s immunity that is supposed to attack and kill invading germs. Instead, his immunity attacks his own normal cells to damage the genetic DNA material and turn normal prostate cells into cancer cells.
Prostate cancer is diagnosed in one of every seven North American men. It is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in men in the United States, after skin cancer, with 220,800 new cases each year and 27,540 deaths in 2015.
Lifestyle Factors that Increase Risk for Prostate Cancer
- Prostate cancer is six times more common in Western than non-Western countries and in richer than poorer countries (Eur Urol, 2012, 61:1079–1092).
- Obesity is associated with increased death rate, more advanced-stage prostate cancer and higher Gleason scores, because it promotes the spread of the cancer once a man has it (Int J Oncol, March 2006;28(3):737-45).
- Full fat cells produce high levels of potential cancer-causing molecules such as leptin, interleukin-6 (IL-6), heparin-binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor (HB-EGF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and adiponectin that can cause cancer cells to spread through your body (Int J Oncol, March 2006;28(3):737-45).
- High blood sugar (fasting sugar over 100) in men diagnosed with prostate cancer markedly increases risk of dying from prostate cancer (Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis, June 2013;16(2):204-8).
- Eating a diet that has a high glycemic load (foods that cause a high rise in blood sugar) increases risk of developing prostate cancer by more than 26 percent (Ann Oncol, Jan 2013;24(1):245-51).
Exercise is associated with reduced risk for both slow-growing and rapidly-growing prostate cancer (the type of prostate cancer that kills (Journal of Urology, November 2009;182(5):2226–2231).
Most of the risk factors for heart attacks are also risk factors for prostate cancer (Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging, December 2015). Every man should try to reduce his risk for prostate cancer (and heart attacks) by decreasing his chances for inflammation:
- Follow a heart-attack prevention diet that includes eating lots of fruits and vegetables and severely restricting refined carbohydrates (sugar-added foods and drinks, bakery products and other foods made with flour), fried foods, red meat and processed meats (BMC Medicine, March 24, 2015;13:3).
- Try to exercise every day.
- Lose weight if overweight.
Gabe Mirkin, M.D., is a sports medicine doctor and fitness guru. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin has run more than 40 marathons and is now a serious tandem bike rider with his wife, Diana. His website is http://drmirkin.com/. Click to read Gabe’s full bio.