To be honest, we don’t know. The causes of prostate cancer are unclear, and each patient is unique. What works for one person may not work for another. However, patients in control of their diet and lifestyle feel better psychologically because they feel they are doing something which may help.
There is not much hard evidence to ‘prove’ that any lifestyle change is beneficial. But Professor Robert Thomas, Director of the Primrose Oncology Research Unit at Bedford Hospital, has collected information from published studies and makes various recommendations in his book Lifestyle and Cancer – The Facts, available via www.cancernet.co.uk.
Professor Thomas is currently conducting a scientific trial to see whether pills (Pomi-T) containing green tea, pomegranate, broccoli and turmeric can slow the progression of prostate cancer. These four foods within Pomi-T® are thought to have a variety of anti-cancer properties: promoting differentiation (i.e. slowing cellular growth), encouraging cells to die when they have reached the end of their natural cycle (called apoptosis) and preventing further DNA damage via the antioxidant process (absorbing the super-oxide free radicals produced from our environment). By protecting the prostate cancer cells from further genetic damage, it is hoped that indolent malignant or pre-malignant cells do not progress into more aggressive types. The rationale for combining four different whole foods types (i.e. berry, vegetable, spice and leaf) was to provide a wide spectrum of natural polyphenols, avoiding over-consumption of one particular type.
Scientists believe that antioxidants, as found in fruit and vegetables, nuts, cereals, drinks such as tea and red wine, are capable of boosting our bodies’ immune/defence systems. It seems that they combat the excessive amounts of potential harmful cell invaders, called ‘free radicals’. These are basically unstable substances in our bodies, created during normal cell process, as well as – in response to pollution – too much sun, stress, and exposure to tobacco smoke. Free radicals left uncontrolled steal from any part of a cell they crash into, which may affect the healthy function of your body. Antioxidants wrap up the boisterous circulating free radicals and deactivate them before they can do harm. It’s a delicate balancing act that is fundamental to health.
Most of us do not get enough exercise. You need good exercise such as brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming for about 30 minutes at least 2 or 3 times a week. (If you are unfit, build up gradually). A fitter body will live longer, and it is already established that prostate cancer survival statistics are poorer for overweight men. Vigorous exercise improves the body’s metabolism, and also releases endorphins, which may boost your immune system.
In theory, a good balanced diet should not need vitamin supplements. However, some doctors recommend a ‘gold standard’ multivitamin pill for the over 50s. But there is evidence that taking vitamin pills to excess is harmful; it is much better to have a healthy diet.
Vitamin B12 can be found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, milk products and fortified breakfast supplement. Vitamin B12 is involved in the metabolism of every cell in the body.
Vitamin D3 helps the body absorb and retain calcium, essential for healthy bones. It also performs many other vital functions in the body’s metabolism. Most of us are deficient in Vitamin D3. Sunshine is the best source; up to half an hour per day is sufficient. Vitamin D can also be got from oily fish, whole grains, nuts, seeds and eggs.
Although there is no clear evidence that dairy products are harmful, it is now looking increasingly likely that there is a case for at least considering either complete avoidance or reduced intake of these.
Professor Jane Plant in her book Prostate Cancer – understand, prevent and overcome, recommends cutting out all dairy products. The recommendation is based on her own experience, when she made a dramatic recovery from advanced breast cancer after stopping intake of all dairy products. She had worked in China, where the incidence of all cancers is very low. The Chinese do not consume any dairy products, but if they move to a Western country and start to adopt a western diet, the incidence of western diseases increases. She believes that IGFs (Insulinlike Growth Factors) in dairy products are a possible cause. Significant evidence to prove her right is, however, lacking, and would be difficult to collect. Nevertheless, many prostate patients follow her advice, switching to alternatives based on soya, oats, rice, almond. If not, consider changing to organic dairy products.
An excellent book Healthy Eating – The Prostate Care Cookbook by Professor Margaret Rayman, Kay Dilley and Kay Gibbons, explains the benefits of various types of foods and contains many recipes contributed by famous chefs. It was first commissioned by the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation (now part of Prostate Cancer UK).
We hope that the guidance given in this section will encourage you to take positive action to improve your cancer journey.