One of the most unnerving diagnoses for men is that of prostate cancer – one of the most prevalent forms of cancer affecting men all over the world.
And for good reason, too: one in nine Americans are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men second only to skin cancer.
It would be amazing if we could find a way to prevent prostate cancer. But the reality is that we’re a ways away from achieving that.
Fortunately, what we have is a good understanding of what steps men can take to help curb the likelihood of contracting prostate cancer.
We already know that aging increases the risk and prevalence of prostate cancer. We also know that prostate biopsies may reveal precancerous lesions just before prostate cancer develops.
What this means is that prostate cancer appears to happen over a long period of time, which can take years to decades, from the moment prostate cells mutate until cancer manifests with abnormally high PSA levels, or when it is found during a prostate exam.
The good thing about this is that there is plenty of time to intervene before prostate cancer develops.
While PSA screening has been invaluable in helping men detect prostate cancer earlier, many men are now more conscious of the need to take the necessary precautions to try to reduce their risk profile for this disease.
Therefore, the question remains: is prostate cancer preventable? Are there concrete steps or actions men can take to reduce their risk at the very least?
Well, the only thing we can say for sure is that there are risks we can control, and there are risks we can’t. This includes age, genetics, race, and family history for the latter.
On the other hand, there are simple ways we can employ to improve our overall health, which may subsequently decrease the probability of developing prostate cancer in men.
Fact is, there’s no proven strategy on how to prevent prostate cancer, unlike some other cancers. But replacing bad habits with good ones can reduce your risk, such as consuming a well-balanced diet, quitting smoking, and exercising regularly.
Let’s take a look at some simple, yet impactful lifestyle changes that you might want to make to achieve this end:
- Refrain from a high-fat, low-fiber diet. Modern diets are laden with high saturated fat and low in fiber. Such diets increase the likelihood of developing prostate cancer. It’s imperative that you read food labels closely and avoid saturated and trans fat. Opt to replace these with omega-3 rich foods such as fish and nuts. Increasing your dietary fiber intake or taking a fiber supplement also helps prevent prostate cancer. Whole wheat foods, fruits like apples and bananas, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are fantastic sources of fiber. Additionally, cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane, a compound that has the potential to reduce prostate cancer risk based on recent research.
- Consume foods rich in antioxidants. Consuming more leafy greens and fruits such as berries aren’t just rich in fiber, but also antioxidants, which lower overall cancer risk. Moreover, research suggests that tomatoes, which are rich in lycopene (a powerful antioxidant), offer further benefits as far as reducing your prostate cancer risk. However, it must be noted that tomatoes need to be cooked to gain their potential benefits. Add more of these antioxidant-rich foods and replace processed and high-sodium foods with these healthier options instead.
- Refrain from consuming burnt or charred meats. Barbecue and grill fans, listen up: research suggests that eating charred meat may increase cancer risk. The process of charring meat produces carcinogens. Thus, opt for alternative cooking methods aside from grilling.
- Monitor your vitamin D levels. Deficient vitamin D levels may be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer. Make it a habit to check your vitamin D levels annually, and especially more so if your risk is high. Vitamin D supplements may help cover any gaps in your diet. Moreover, try to get at least 5-10 minutes of sunlight during the early part of the mornings (without sunscreen) to help your body produce more vitamin D.
- Refrain from alcohol consumption and quit smoking. Lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption and smoking are linked to a wide array of diseases, including prostate cancer. If you have to drink, opt for a glass of red wine or two at most. Red wine has been found to potentially reduce prostate cancer risk. Drink responsibly.
- Keep a healthy weight and exercise regularly. Obesity increases the risk of not just heart disease and a host of diseases such as diabetes. Being overweight is also linked to developing highly aggressive forms of prostate cancer. That’s why keeping a healthy weight all throughout your adulthood is crucial, because doing so isn’t just good for your heart and your overall health, but it also boosts your immune system immensely – which is a critical factor in preventing cancer regardless of the type.
- Work with your doctor. Certain factors predispose some men to an increased risk of prostate cancer. Men in these high-risk categories need to consult their doctors to find out more proactive ways of reducing their risk, such as taking medication or going on therapy. If you suspect that you might be a high-risk candidate, consult your doctor and be proactive about your prostate health.
Ultimately, it’s all about your lifestyle. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle, coupled with a nutritious, well-balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, and refraining from alcohol and tobacco consumption plays a massive role in reducing your risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular problems and cancer, including prostate cancer. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to be proactive about your prostate health. It’s as simple as getting a quick digital prostate exam that lasts no more than 20 seconds, and by getting an annual blood test to check for your prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels.
Prostate cancer is preventable and curable especially when caught early – and these are the keys to enjoying a longer, higher-quality kind of life.