The National Cancer Institute estimated at least 160,000 new cases of prostate cancer during 2016, with a 14 percent average of men diagnosed with it within their lifetime. Concordantly, poor diet choices have shown to grow cancer risk and obesity numbers rising. So what exactly are the risks for cancer and is there a link between obesity and prostate cancer?
What Is Prostate Cancer?
Second to skin cancer, prostate cancer is most common cancer in men, especially African-American men and the senior population. Prostate cancer is basically cancer of the prostate, a small gland close to the bladder, that produces seminal fluid and transports and nourishes sperm. Early symptoms of prostate cancer are mostly absent while later symptoms may include painful urination, an increased urge to urinate, a weak urinary system, and erectile dysfunction.
Prostate cancer requires a medical diagnosis, generally confirmed through blood testing or a digital rectal examination (DRE). Some cases grow slowly and require careful and consistent monitoring while other types need a more aggressive treatment plan. Radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, medication and hormone therapy are just a few well-known treatments and may work in lieu with one another.
The Link Between Obesity and Prostate Cancer
Though obesity certainly has an impact on cancer across all spectrums, recent research has shined the spotlight solely on prostate cancer. Current evidence published by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) confirms the link between obesity and prostate cancer. Significant findings show overweight or obese men are at greater risk of developing a more violent form of prostate cancer. And though the two are linked, researchers commonly point the finger to obesity. Despite obesity also having genetic and historical factors, poor diet choices severely impact weight, including processed foods high in fat (especially trans fats and highly processed meats).
Further research also highlights the cancer occurrence disparities between African-American men and non-Hispanic white men. Data proposes that obese, African-American men are at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer compared to non-Hispanic white men, posing the need to reduce obesity rates. However, all races can benefit from weight loss through a balanced diet. A nutritious diet offers essential nutrients (such as antioxidants) that can further combat cancer risk.
Additional Risk Factors
Diet and obesity is just a piece of the puzzle, as all cancer forms have several risk factors. Some risk factors are unmodifiable and fixed, while others can be modified to accommodate a healthier lifestyle:
Unmodifiable: age, race, family history, genetic mutations, some environmental factors including pollution and secondhand smoke
Modifiable: diet, smoking and tobacco, alcohol, and sun exposure
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Barrington WE, Schenk JM, Etzioni R, et al. Difference in Association of Obesity with Prostate Cancer Risk Between US African American and Non-Hispanic White Men in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT). JAMA Oncology. 2015;1(3):342-349. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.0513.
Prostate Cancer. World Cancer Research Fund International. Available at: http://www.wcrf.org/int/research-we-fund/continuous-update-project-findings-reports/prostate-cancer.