Doctor’s Tip: How to prevent and survive prostate cancer
The prostate is the size and shape of a walnut and is a gland that surrounds the urethra (the outlet of the bladder). Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men, next to skin cancer. A 50-year-old American man has a 40 percent risk of eventually developing slow-growing, non-fatal prostate cancer that will never cause symptoms or kill him; a 16 percent risk of developing prostate cancer that will cause symptoms and require some type of treatment; and a 2.9 percent risk of fatal prostate cancer.
PSA (prostate specific antigen) is a blood test used to detect prostate cancer, although conditions such as prostate infection can also elevate it. PSA is not a perfect test, because elevation does not differentiate between slow-growing and more aggressive, deadly cancer. If aggressive cancer is identified, radical prostatectomy can be life-saving but often results in side effects such as impotence and bladder leakage. Side effects are also common with chemotherapy and radiation.
Prevention of cancer is the best approach. Some men have a genetic predisposition for prostate cancer, but as is often the case, what you eat determines whether or not these genes are turned on. Some of the 2 billion cells in our bodies are always mutating. Plants contain micronutrients that kill off these abnormal cells before they multiply and end up as cancer — animal products don’t have nutrients that do that. Dr. Dean Ornish proved over 25 years ago that a plant-based, whole food diet with no salt, sugar or added oil reverses heart disease. In his book “The Spectrum,” he discusses a more recent study in which he proved that this diet can reverse early prostate cancer and can slow the progression of aggressive, metastatic prostate cancer. Here is how you can prevent prostate cancer and if you already have it how you can reverse or slow the progression of this disease:
• Avoid cow’s milk, which is good for baby cows but is problematic for humans of any age. In his book “How Not to Die,” Dr. Michael Greger notes that “nutrition experts have expressed concern that the hormones in dairy products and other growth factors could stimulate the growth of hormone-sensitive tumors,” including prostate cancer. One of these other growth factors is IGF-1 (insulin growth factor-1), which makes baby cows grow rapidly but which in adult humans stimulates the growth of cancer cells.
• Avoid eggs. Dr. Greger presents evidence that choline in eggs is converted into a toxin called trimethylamine by our gut bacteria, which when oxidized by the liver increases the risk of prostate cancer. Eating even a few eggs a week doubles the risk of prostate cancer progression such as bone metastases.
• Avoid cooked meat, including red meat and poultry. Cooking meat causes carcinogens such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) to form.
• Avoid fatty foods, because they increase the risk of prostate cancer.
• Increase your intake of fruit and vegetables, because they decrease prostate cancer risk by killing off mutant cells as soon as they form. According to Dr. Neal Barnard in “The Cancer Survivor’s Guide,” plant-based foods also cause a “drop in the biochemical factors such as hormones that stimulate [prostate] cancer growth.”
• Be wary of taking testosterone supplements, because they can stimulate growth of prostate cancer.
The bottom line, according to Dr. Barnard, is that “by boosting vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains and avoiding dairy products, meats, eggs and fried foods, men are able to take advantage of protective nutrients and avoid cancer-promoting factors.” Up through World War II, prostate cancer was very rare in Japan. Sadly, the rate of prostate cancer has increased significantly since then, as the Japanese diet has become more westernized.
Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and other medical issues, and to help people with hospital or other medical bills they don’t understand or think are too high. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at email@example.com.