By Patricia Hollenback, R.N., BSN, OCN
About one in seven men will hear their doctor say “you have prostate cancer” during their lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer in men, just behind skin cancer.
Unfortunately, like many other forms of cancer, there are some risk factors for prostate cancer that can’t be controlled, such as older age, ethnicity, a family history of prostate or breast cancer and BRCA gene mutations.
There’s no sure way to prevent prostate cancer. However, if you are concerned about your risk, there are some things you can do that not only lower your risk of developing prostate cancer, but also benefit your overall health.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
There’s some evidence that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fat may contribute to a lower risk of prostate cancer. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and nutrients that may lower your risk as well as improve your overall health.
Green veggies contain compounds that help your body break down carcinogens, i.e., cancer-causing substances. Eating fruits and vegetables throughout the day may also make you less likely to nosh on processed junk food.
Reduce the Fat in Your Diet
There have been several studies showing that men who ate a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products had a slightly higher change of developing prostate cancer. These men also had a tendency to eat fewer fruits and vegetables.
You can limit fatty foods or choose low-fat varieties by reducing the amount of fat you add when cooking, choosing leaner cuts of meat and selecting low-fat or reduced-fat dairy products. You can also substitute fish for red meat that’s rich in saturated fat. Certain types of fish, like tuna, salmon, trout and mackerel, contain omega-3 fatty acid, which may help reduce your risk of getting prostate cancer.
Lose Excess Weight or Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity and being overweight are often associated with a higher risk of developing any type of cancer. Men with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher are considered obese and may have an increased risk of prostate cancer. If you’re overweight or obese, losing extra pounds by reducing the amount of calories you consume and increasing the amount of exercise you get can lower your risk of prostate cancer and a number of other serious health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.
If you are already at a healthy weight, you should work to maintain it. Which leads us to…
Exercise Most Days of the Week
Exercise is proven to improve your overall health, help you maintain your weight and may even improve your mood.
Studies have shown that men who don’t exercise have higher prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels – PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland’s cells. If a PSA test shows more than a normal level of the substance in the bloodstream, it may indicate prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement or cancer.
While there haven’t been many studies that found a definitive link between smoking and prostate cancer, smoking increases your overall risk of developing many types of cancer, not to mention chronic health conditions that serve as risk factors for cancer. Smoking has been found to harm nearly every organ and organ system in the body and diminishes your overall health. Not smoking or quitting the habit can substantially reduce the risk of cancer, regardless of age.
See Your Doctor
One of the most important measures to understanding your risk of prostate cancer is regularly seeing your doctor. This gives you the opportunity to learn what risk factors you may already have and work with your physician to manage them or keep a close eye on them. Prostate cancer is most treatable when caught early – visiting your doctor and having routine PSA tests and digital rectal-exams help your doctor detect any abnormalities in your prostate’s texture, shape or size. Together, these tests help identify prostate cancer at the earliest stages. And they might just save your life.
About the Author
Patricia Hollenback, R.N., BSN, OCN
Patti is a champion for cancer prevention and early detection. As a nurse navigator, her primary goal is to create an open and trusting relationship with her patients in order to guide them through the medical maze of testing, treatment and recovery.