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Lifestyle and Prostate Cancer

Lifestyle changes may prolong the lives of men with prostate cancer. This month, three new studies show that men with prostate cancer are more likely to die from their cancer if they eat an unhealthful diet, do not exercise and/or gain weight.

Lack of Exercise and Telomere Length
A study from Johns Hopkins shows that measuring telomere length in prostate cancer cells may be a way to predict who is at increased risk for dying from prostate cancer (Cancer Prevention Research, published online May 19, 2015). They showed increased risk for rapidly progressive prostate cancer in men who:
• are overweight
• do not exercise
• have higher Gleason scores (a measure of how malignant the prostate cancer cells look under a microscope), and
• have shorter telomeres on their genetic material, a measure of cellular aging.
The authors state, "Telomere shortening in prostate cells may be one mechanism through which lifestyle influences prostate cancer risk and outcomes." See my report on Lifestyle Changes Lengthen Telomeres

A Heart-Healthy Diet Benefits Prostate Cancer Patients
A study from Harvard shows that men with prostate cancer who adopt a heart-healthy, plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruit, beans, fish and whole grains are far less likely to die from prostate cancer, compared to prostate cancer patients who continued to eat red meat, processed meat, eggs, potatoes, high-fat dairy products, butter, processed grains found in bakery products and pastas, snacks, sweets and desserts. Men on a heart-healthy diet were also less likely to smoke or drink alcohol and less likely to die from causes other than their prostate cancer (Cancer Prevention Research, published online June 1, 2015).

In this study, 926 doctors diagnosed with prostate cancer were followed for 14 years. Those eating the heart-unhealthful Western diet were 250 percent more likely to die of prostate cancer-related issues and 167 percent more likely to die from any cause than the subjects on the heart-healthy diet. This study agrees with most other studies coming out now, associating a heart attack-preventing diet with also protecting against multiple different cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and premature death from all causes.

Gaining Weight Increases Risk for Dying From Prostate Cancer
In the third study, men who gained weight after being treated for prostate cancer with radiation were at increased risk for:
• having prostate cancer recur,
• dying from prostate cancer, and
• dying from any causes (Cancer, June 2015). The authors state, "All patients should be counseled on diet and exercise as well as any potential lifestyle changes to obtain or maintain a healthy weight."

Most Prostate Cancers Do Not Kill
More than 95 percent of prostate cancers are slow-growing and do not harm the men who have them. However, up to five percent of prostate cancers can be rapidly progressive, spread through the body and kill. These three new studies add to many others that associate obesity, an unhealthful diet and/or lack of exercise with increased risk for the rapidly progressive type of prostate cancer that kills. Unfortunately, the most common test used today, called the Gleason score, suggests but does not prove the severity of prostate cancer. There is no definitive test to distinguish the relatively harmless type of prostate cancer from the type that is rapidly progressive and deadly.

In North America, prostate cancer affects:
• 35 percent of men 70-80 years old,
• 70 percent of men over 80, and
• almost 100 percent of men over 90.
In rural China, fewer than four percent of men over 90 have prostate cancer. I believe that lifestyle factors, such as their plant-based diet, low calorie intake and daily manual labor, will account for much of the difference in prostate cancer rates. Most North American men eat the typical western diet loaded with red and processed meat, sugared drinks, sugar-added and fried foods, do not exercise and gain an average of five pounds every decade. The typical Western diet appears to weaken your immunity to put you at increased risk for diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and various cancers including prostate cancer. Lack of exercise and being overweight are also associated with increased risk for the type of prostate cancer that kills.

My Recommendations
If you are a man with a big belly and small buttocks, you are likely to already have metabolic syndrome in which your blood sugar rises too high after meals. You may already be diabetic and have high blood pressure. Check with your doctor, and
• Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts
• Restrict all sugared drinks, sugar-added foods, fried foods, red meat and processed meats
• If you are not already exercising, start a supervised exercise program
• Lose weight if you are overweight

Checked 8/2/19

June 14th, 2015
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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