Sperling Prostate Center

Saturated Fat: A Prostate Cancer No-No

UPDATE: 2/8/2023
Originally published 8/15/2015

Globally, prostate cancer (PCa) is the second-most common cancer (after lung cancer). Of the developed world, PCa is most prevalent in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe, but in these countries as in developing countries, the incidence is on the rise. Experts believe dietary factors bear a large share of the blame. According to Oszkowski, et al. (2021), “The Western-type dietary pattern (characterized by high consumption of processed food, meat, and meat products with high fat content, and a lower intake of fruits and vegetables) … is considered to be associated with a higher risk of cancer incidence.”[i] It is ironic that the wealth and abundance of First World nations is reflected in a growing threat to wellness and higher healthcare costs. The authors sum up the evidence: “An excessive energy intake frequently linked with a high intake of saturated fatty acids (SFAs) and sugars and a low intake of complex carbohydrates, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), fruits, and vegetables is associated with a higher risk of various cancers, including prostate cancer.” This is shameful because it need not happen. Saturated fat is a leading cause of PCa and other cancers, yet each of us can change, one person at a time: “The power of one is not about being self-centered, rather it is about being socio-centric and recognizing each action we take creates a reaction and impact on others, whether we realize it or not.” If each of us were to decrease our intake of saturated fats while increasing vegetable fats, there’d be a lot less cancer, a lot less cardiovascular disease, and a lot less expenditure of healthcare dollars. It’s just that simple to do your part in changing global health while taking good care of your prostate.


“In the 1960s, you could eat anything you wanted, and of course, people were smoking cigarettes and all kinds of things, and there was no talk about fat and anything like that, and butter and cream were rife.” Julia Child, whose how-to cooking show brought French cooking into American kitchens, made that observation about a bygone era. We now know that dietary fat, which we get from the vegetables and meats that we eat, is healthy in small quantities, and that some fats are better for us than others.

The kind of fat that we get from animals (red meat, poultry and whole-fat dairy products) is called saturated fat. It is different from vegetable fats such as plant-based oils or the omega-3 fatty acids we get from fatty fish. It is correlated with weight gain, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and diabetes.

For men diagnosed with prostate cancer, it appears that saturated fat is connected with their cancer becoming worse. A group of authors from University of California/Mission Hall used data from the Physicians’ Health Study (PHS) to compare cancer progression between prostate cancer patients whose diets were high in saturated fats vs. those who consumed vegetable fat.[ii] Their hypothesis was that saturated fat intake would increase the risk of death, whereas vegetable fat would lower it.

They identified 926 PHS participants who had localized prostate cancer. All men completed a food frequency questionnaire within an average of five years of diagnosis, and they were tracked for a median of 10 years after the questionnaire. During the follow-up period, about a third of participants (333) died, 56 of them from prostate cancer. The authors analyzed all types of fat intake in relation to the reported cause of death. The results were noted as follows:

  • Those who got 5% more of their daily calories from saturated fat and 5% less from carbohydrate were 1.8 times more likely to die of any cause
  • The same men were 2.8 times more likely to die of prostate cancer
  • Men who got 10% more of their daily calories from vegetable fat and 10% less from carbohydrates were 33% less likely to die from any cause, including prostate cancer.

They therefore concluded that for men with localized prostate cancer, “saturated fat intake may increase risk of death and vegetable fat intake may lower risk of death.”

At our Center, we recognize how important it is to lead a healthy lifestyle. We do our part for prostate cancer patients by offering focal laser ablation that controls the cancer while sparing sexual and urinary function. Our patients must do their part by reducing the risk of cancer recurrence. That includes making choices that favor great nutrition, exercise, and stress management. It makes good sense to choose plant-based fats and omega-3 fatty acids over saturated fats. Say no to saturated fats, say yes to a long and healthy life.

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] Oczkowski M, Dziendzikowska K, Pasternak-Winiarska A, W?odarek D, Gromadzka-Ostrowska J. Dietary Factors and Prostate Cancer Development, Progression, and Reduction. Nutrients. 2021 Feb 3;13(2):496.
[ii] Van Blarigan EL, Kenfield SA, Yang M, Sesso HD et al. Fat intake after prostate cancer diagnosis and mortality in the Physicians’ Health Study. Cancer Causes Control. 2015 Aug;26(8):1117-26. doi: 10.1007/s10552-015-0606-4. Epub 2015 Jun 6. (UC-Mission Hall)


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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