Sperling Prostate Center

Diet, Cancer and You

UPDATE: 10/27/2021
Originally published 6/20/2019

If you follow our blog (and we hope you do), you’ve seen recent blogs with a strong dietary theme: eat more plant-based foods to protect yourself from prostate cancer (PCa). The two-year old blog below explains anti-inflammatory nutrition like the Mediterranean diet as preventative for PCa as well as other diseases that result from chronic inflammation. More recently, our blog about the documentary “The Game Changers” narrowed the focus to strictly plant-based eating in which no animal products are consumed. However, we softened that message with a subsequent blog on plant-forward eating. Now, a study out of the Miller School of Medicine/Urology Department (University of Miami) analyzed data from 1399 men ages 46-63 years.[i] The median PSA was 0.9 ng/dL, and nearly 5% of the participants had PSA greater than or equal to 4 ng/dL. Statistical analysis revealed that those with “higher consumption of health plant-based diet…had a decreased probability of having an elevated PSA.” The authors wrote that this statistically significant finding “… may be incorporated into the shared-decision making process with patients to promote healthier lifestyle choices to reduce the likelihood of prostate biopsy and potential treatment-related morbidity.” We couldn’t agree more! This is exactly why we are placing more emphasis on the role of diet in prostate wellness and men’s health.

You’re having a dream. In it, you’re in the lunch line at a fast-food restaurant, anticipating a tasty burger, fries and soft drink. Part of you feels a bit guilty because you had junk food just last week, but you have to be at an early afternoon meeting and road construction tied up traffic. There’s less than an hour till the meeting, you’re hungry, and this place happens to be convenient. This rationalization turns the volume down on the guilt. You feel justified.

Suddenly, you feel a tap on the shoulder. As you turn, the restaurant vanishes and you find yourself in a doctor’s office facing a woman in white coat with a stethoscope around her neck. She looks very serious as she says in a scolding tone, “What were you doing in that line? I told you that poor diet is linked to over 80,000 new cancer cases annually. Do you want to get cancer?” The guilt returns, the dream ends.

Poor diet and cancer

It’s no dream. In fact, it’s a national nightmare, as we learn from a May, 2019 study titled “Preventable Cancer Burden Associated with Poor Diet in the United States.”[ii] The research team gathered data on U.S. adult dietary intake from 2013-16, and government cancer statistics for the year 2015. They found that 5.2% of new cancer cases in 2015 were attributable to poor nutrition, either directly or through obesity-related health vulnerabilities.  

The study examined specific dietary patterns: low intake of vegetables, fruits and whole grains; and high intake of processed meats, red meats, and sugary beverages/soda. The authors wrote:

By diet, low consumption of whole grains…and dairy products…and high intake of processed meats…contributed to the highest burden. Men, middle-aged…and racial/ethnic minorities…had the highest proportion of diet-associated cancer burden than other age, sex, race/ethnicity groups.

Of all types of cancer, this study found that colorectal cancers had the largest proportion of diet-linked new cancers, at 38.3%.

Protecting yourself from cancer

Science teaches us that inflammation can act as a precursor for cancer. The classic example is the relationship between smoking—which deposits inflammatory molecules in the lungs—and the constant tissue-damaging irritants that eventually cause lung cancer. Likewise, what we eat can also lead to long-term accumulation of toxins and irritants that inflame delicate tissues in the digestive tract and other organs. The body can take just so much self-inflicted pollution, but the big difference between smoking and eating is necessity. We don’t have to smoke, but we do have to eat. However, as the study’s lead author, Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, remarked in an interview, “Diet is among the few modifiable risk factors for cancer prevention.”[iii]

In an earlier blog I explained the association of chronic inflammation with prostate cancer. I wrote about the merits of eating a non-inflammatory diet such as the Mediterranean diet. Changing health by changing what you eat is not just wishful thinking. It that actually be measured by testing for inflammatory biomarkers in the blood and tissue. Fact: people whose nutrition is rich in vegetables and fruits that contain phytochemicals and micronutrients; whole grains; certain anti-inflammatory spices and seasonings like turmeric have fewer inflammation biomarkers than people who consume high amounts of saturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, and ultraprocessed foods. In the U.S., 57.9% of energy intake (calories) in the average diet come from ultraprocessed food,[iv] revealing the extent of the national nightmare of rising healthcare costs—not just cancer-related, but poor nutrition is also directly related to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The good news is that diet is a 100% transformable factor in preventing disease. Choosing the Mediterranean diet (or similar program of anti-inflammatory foods) is an investment in preventing cancers of the prostate and other body systems, as well as in preserving heart health. I also want to put in a good word for choosing organic produce, and organically fed lean white meat (chicken, turkey, etc.) Remember to read labels carefully since there are different levels of what can be labeled as organic.

Want to live a long life with great quality of health? The ages-old wisdom still holds true: we are what we eat. Forget the national nightmare. Eat better food to make your dreams of health come true.

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] Mouzannar A, Kuchakulla M, Blachman-Braun R, Nackeeran S et al. Impact of Plant-Based Diet on PSA Level: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Urology. 2021 Jul 22;S0090-4295(21)00675-0. [ii] Zhang FF, Cudhea F, Shan Z, Michaud D et al. Preventable Cancer Burden Associated with Poor Diet in the United States. JNCI Cancer Spectrum. 2019 May. https://doi.org/10.1093/jncics/pkz034. [iii] Howard, Jacqueline. Thousands of cancer diagnoses tied to a poor diet, study finds. CNN online. May 23, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/22/health/diet-cancer-risk-study/index.html [iv] Steele EM, Baraldi LG, da Costa Louzada ML, Moubarac JC et al. Ultra-processed foods and added sugars in the US diet: evidence from a nationally representative corss-sectional study. BMJ Open. Vol. 6, No. 3. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/3/e009892?utm_source=trendmd&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=bmjopen&trendmd-shared=1&utm_content=Journalcontent&utm_term=TrendMDPhase4


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.

You may also be interested in...

WordPress Image Lightbox