Sperling Prostate Center

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Reduces Prostate Cancer Risk

UPDATE: 3/4/2024
Originally published 2/14/2019

The blog below was followed by many other blogs on nutrition as a lifestyle measure that can a) help prevent prostate cancer (PCa), support recovery after treatment, and help slow progression if PCa comes back after treatment.

In particular, we have posted numerous blogs on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which is considered one of the best anti-inflammatory nutrition programs with its many benefits for healthy longevity. Its emphasis is on less red meat (more chicken and fish), and heavy on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Now there is also interest in a similar program called the Atlantic diet. It is based on foods and seafood from the coastal regions of Spain and Portugal, and its principles are very similar to the Mediterranean diet.

If you enjoy dining out but don’t want to compromise on eating anti-inflammatory foods, we suggest checking out restaurants with Middle Eastern, Spanish, or Portuguese cuisine. Add some yum to maintaining the health of your prostate—and your whole body.


An inflammatory process starts when chemicals are released by the damaged tissue … In chronic inflammation, the inflammatory process may begin even if there is no injury, and it does not end when it should … Over time, chronic inflammation can cause DNA damage and lead to cancer.[i]

A couple of years ago I posted a blog on the link between chronic inflammation and developing prostate cancer (PCa). Inflammation is not the only catalyst for prostate cancer, and prostate cancer is not the only malignancy associated with the presence of inflammation. In fact, estimates suggest that 20% of all cancers may occur as an offshoot of chronic inflammation.

Inflammation is the body’s normal response when living tissue is injured. Injury can come in many forms: physical harm (cut, strain, sprain, bruise), bacterial or viral infection, exposure to chemicals or heat, etc. The body’s natural mechanisms go into action very quickly, starting with increased blood flow to the area. This blood flow brings resources from the immune system to block invaders, as well as biochemicals designed to remove damaged tissue and accomplish healing reconstruction. Often, you are aware that inflammation is occurring because the injured area becomes swollen, red, warm and painful. This immediate reaction is called acute inflammation, and may last for several days but gradually diminishes.

Chronic inflammation

There is another type of inflammation that lingers, called chronic inflammation. Unlike acute inflammation, there’s not much that’s good when inflammation lasts and doesn’t go away. This can occur as the result of an untreated condition, an illness like diabetes or certain blood disorders, ongoing exposure to toxins or environmental irritants, or unhealthy lifestyle.

Scientists believe that ongoing inflammation can create an environment favorable to tumor development. There are many mechanisms that contribute to this, such as the growth factors and stem cell resources that accompany acute inflammation to assist with healing. A sort of “vicious circle” occurs when chronic inflammation leads to precancerous cell changes, and then the body responds to these unfamiliar cells with more inflammation.

Protecting against inflammation

Although many aspects of life are not within our control, the obvious thing all of us can control is what we choose to eat.  The last thing we want to do is load up on ingredients that promote inflammation. The alternative is what is called an anti-inflammatory diet.  By “diet” I mean “total nutrition style”, rather than what most people mean when they say they’re going on a diet (weight loss). Instead, I’m going to talk about “diet” as inflammation loss.

Harvard Medical School’s newsletter tells us, “Doctors are learning that one of the best ways to quell inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator.”[ii] Generally speaking, diets like the Mediterranean diet focus on foods that help protect against inflammation. Such foods include fish, green vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Look at the difference between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods:

Inflammatory diet Anti-inflammatory diet
Refined carbohydrates (white bread, pastries)
Fried foods, especially deep-fat fried
Red meat
Processed meat
Margarine, lard, shortening
Sugar-sweetened beverages and sodas
Green leafy vegetables
Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna
Olive oil
Fruits, especially berries

It takes just a little internet search to identify more ingredients and recipes that are yummy to eat and that reduce chronic inflammation and its effects.

A new tool has been created to assign numeric values to foods in order to analyze how much they upregulate or downregulate inflammation. It is called the Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII), and it draws on decades of evidence that diet has a major influence on chronic inflammation. Based on questionnaire responses regarding what foods a person eats, a high DII score indicates an inflammatory diet while a low DII score shows an anti-inflammatory diet.

A 2018 study on the relationship between DII scores and prostate cancer found that “the risk of prostate cancer as 9% higher for each one-point increase in the score.”[iii] The authors concluded that consuming an anti-inflammatory diet would help prevent prostate cancer (by reducing chronic inflammation).

Not just your prostate, but also multiple systems in the body benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet. To name just a few, your cardiovascular system, central nervous system, lymphatic system and endocrine system will all function more smoothly, both individually and collectively as they interrelate with each other. Improve your diet – and lose inflammation starting today.

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

[i] https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/chronic-inflammation
[ii] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation
[iii] Mohseni R, Abbasi S, Mohseni F, Rahimi F, Alizadeh S. Association between dietary inflammatory index and the risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis. Nutr Cancer. 2018 Oct 1:1-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30273060


About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

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