A new study has found that eating an unhealthy diet that includes a fair share of processed meat can increase your risk of prostate cancer.
1. What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate. The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland in males that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. Many prostate cancers grow slowly and are confined to the prostate gland, where they may not cause serious harm. However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.
Prostate cancer that’s detected early — when it’s still confined to the prostate gland — has the best chance for successful treatment.
Prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages.
Prostate cancer that’s more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:
Decreased force in the stream of urine
Blood in the urine
Blood in the semen
Losing weight without trying
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you.
It’s not clear what causes prostate cancer. Doctors know that prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate develop changes in their DNA. A cell’s DNA contains the instructions that tell a cell what to do. The changes tell the cells to grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells do. The abnormal cells continue living, when other cells would die.
The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor that can grow to invade nearby tissue. In time, some abnormal cells can break away and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
Factors that can increase your risk of prostate cancer include:
Older age. Your risk of prostate cancer increases as you age. It’s most common after age 50.
Race. For reasons not yet determined, Black people have a greater risk of prostate cancer than do people of other races. In Black people, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced.
Family history. If a blood relative, such as a parent, sibling or child, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, your risk may be increased. Also, if you have a family history of genes that increase the risk of breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2) or a very strong family history of breast cancer, your risk of prostate cancer may be higher.
Obesity. People who are obese may have a higher risk of prostate cancer compared with people considered to have a healthy weight, though studies have had mixed results. In obese people, the cancer is more likely to be more aggressive and more likely to return after initial treatment.
Prostate cancer, or treatments like hormone therapy, radiation, and chemotherapy, can make you feel tired. Treatment can also result in low red blood cell counts, which may affect your energy levels.
Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
Prostate cancer or its treatments — or even the stress of dealing with cancer — can make it difficult to get or keep an erection. This condition is called erectile dysfunction (ED).
Cancer can damage the nerves around your prostate, which help control erections. Surgery, radiation, or hormone therapy can also harm nerves in the area or reduce blood flow to your penis.
Prostate cancer surgery or other treatments may make it hard for you to control your bladder. Damage to nerves and muscles may cause you to leak pee or have trouble controlling its flow.
Advanced prostate cancer can lead to several types of pain. When it spreads to your bones, you might have bone pain, which often feels like a dull ache. Your tumor may press on a nerve, which could cause a stabbing or burning feeling.
The most common place where prostate cancer spreads is to your bones. In addition to causing pain, this can make them become weak. Hormone therapy can also weaken your bones because it lowers testosterone levels. And weaker bones raise your risk of fractures.
Eating and Digestion Problems
Treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or surgery can make it hard to eat or digest food normally. You may feel nauseated, throw up, or have loose stools or diarrhea.
2. The #1 worst eating habit that lead to fatal prostate cancer
Prostate cancer has touched many lives due to the fact that it’s one of the most common types of cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. Age, race, obesity, and family history are just a few of the factors that determine whether someone has a greater risk of developing the disease. And now, a new study has found that eating an unhealthy diet that includes a fair share of processed meat can increase your risk of prostate cancer.
In a study that was recently published in European Urology, blood was taken from 12,000 people during the 1980s and 1990s. Data was also collected from the participants regarding various aspects of their lifestyles. Those behind the study then took a look at who was following a healthy lifestyle—that is, one that involved eating well (including a diet rich in fish and tomatoes, but not processed meat), maintaining a healthy weight, getting a significant amount of exercise, and not smoking—and used that information alongside a 2021 genome-wide association study. By doing so, they determined that men who had a greater genetic risk of developing prostate cancer reduced the risk of fatal prostate cancer by 45%.
“All men should be encouraged to engage in maintaining a healthy lifestyle given the benefits that produces. For men at increased genetic risk of prostate cancer, having a healthy lifestyle may be particularly important,” said corresponding author Anna Plym, Ph.D., of Brigham’s Division of Urology, according to EurekAlert! “Of the factors we studied, maintaining a healthy weight and doing regular physical exercise, as well as not smoking, appeared to be the most important factors.”
“I found the study to be quite enlightening, but given my understanding of healthy lifestyles, not overly surprising,” Dr. Dana Ellis Hunnes, Ph.D., MPH, RD, senior clinical dietitian UCLA Medical Center, Assistant professor UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and author of Recipe For Survival tells Eat This, Not That! “I think the most surprising aspect to most people would be how much diet plays a role in cancer risk, especially a heritable cancer risk, and how a healthy diet and lifestyle can attenuate that risk so significantly.”
Hunnes explains that a “healthy diet can decrease the risk of fatal prostate cancer because there are many foods (processed meats, processed foods/sugars) that affect hormone levels (testosterone/estrogen, etc).” Beyond that, “certain cancers, including prostate cancer, are affected by hormone levels, which might explain why men who drink high levels of cow’s milk (which contains naturally occurring estrogens), are at greater risk of prostate cancer than men who avoid cow’s milk and/or are plant-based.”
As for the specific foods referenced in the study results that may lower the risk of prostate cancer, Hunnes notes that “tomatoes with their high levels of lycopene (higher/more bioavailable when cooked) are well established as helping to lower the risk of prostate cancer, it’s an antioxidant and phytonutrient.” At the same time, “fish may lower the risk of prostate cancer because of their healthy polyunsaturated fats, which we can also get from plant sources including algae.”
On the other hand, “processed meats are known inflammatory foods which raise TMAO and IGF-1, which is an insulin-like growth factor, which can also affect other hormones in the body since everything is interconnected.” That’s why “eating processed meats and increasing inflammation and certain hormones can also increase the risk of certain cancers.”