“You have prostate cancer.” They’re the words no man wants to hear, yet more than 180,000 American men will hear them this year. But now a new Harvard study that reviewed the lifestyle habits and health histories of 63,025 men reveals six simple steps that’ll slash your risk for fatal prostate cancer by an impressive 47 percent.
The ABCs of PC: Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men in the U.S., affecting one in six. It’s the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in guys and will claim the lives of 26,120 men this year alone. Fortunately, most of the time, it’s slow-growing and not lethal; in fact, cancer specialists say it’s often “indolent,” meaning a prostate tumor won’t spread in the body or become deadly. But about one in five men develop aggressive, high-risk forms of prostate cancer; 30-40 percent of these men will see a heart-breaking return of cancer at some point after treatment. For many, it will prove fatal.
How to prevent fatal prostate cancer: Thanks to this new study, you can stack the deck in your favor. And the strategies, which are most powerful when combined, offer you other benefits as well. They help you slash your odds for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and more.
▪ Break a sweat — cut risk 34 percent. Get three hours a week of vigorous physical activity or seven hours a week of brisk walking. Exercise and other higher-intensity physical activity (like digging a garden, taking a hike or biking, for example) seem to protect your prostate by keeping a lid on compounds that fuel cancer growth, such as insulin and insulin-like growth factor, and by keeping other bioactive chemicals, like sex hormones, at healthy levels, too.
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▪ Cut back on processed meat — cut risk 22 percent. We say eliminate all processed meats from your diet (the study said no more than two weekly servings of 4 ounces). Hot dogs, bacon, sausage and lunch meats contain nasty N-nitroso compounds, as well as nitrites that can turn into nitrosamines and damage cells. In lab studies, NOCs are proven carcinogens.
▪ Munch, sip and slurp tomato products — cut risk 18 percent. Aim for seven servings a week of fresh tomatoes, salsa, sauce or juice. Tomatoes and the protective phytochemical lycopene in them are associated with lower PC risk. Heat liberates more of the lycopene in tomatoes: Simmering fresh tomatoes in soups, stews and fresh sauces can increase the available lycopene by as much as 164 percent. You get about 25 milligrams of lycopene in a half-cup of tomato puree, a cup of tomato soup or vegetable juice cocktail, but only around 5 grams in a medium-size fresh tomato.
▪ Say yes to fatty fish —cut risk 17 percent. Aim for one or more servings a week of fin food that’s high in DHA omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines and trout. These fats may help by encouraging the death of cancer cells and interfere with inflammation-boosting that comes from getting too many omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3s.
▪ Quit smoking or never start — cut risk 12 percent. Cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke concentrate in the prostate gland. In addition, smoking may boost risk by raising levels of cancer-fueling hormones including DHEA, cortisol and some forms of testosterone. Once you stop, over the next 10 years your risk falls to that of a nonsmoker.
▪ Maintain a healthy weight — cut risk 7 percent. Avoid obesity and belly fat, or lose it now! You don’t have to get super-skinny, just keep your body mass index, a measurement that compares your height and weight, below 25. Walking 10,000 steps every day (no excuses), eating 5-9 servings of fresh produce and eliminating processed and sugar-added foods does the trick! Excess fat, particularly the kind that wraps around internal organs in your abdomen, can raise blood levels of cancer-fueling compounds.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.