How to lower your risk of prostate cancer

One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. But the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. In fact, many of those men need no treatment at all.

You have a higher risk of prostate cancer if you:

  • Are over 50
  • Have a father, brother, or son who was diagnosed with prostate cancer
  • Are of African ancestry

How diet, exercise, and other factors affect your risk of prostate cancer

“The evidence has gotten a bit stronger that overweight men are not more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, but they are more likely to die of it,” says Meir Stampfer, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“That’s also true for physical inactivity. Reducing your risk of dying of prostate cancer is an added bonus to the myriad of good reasons to maintain a healthy weight and not be inactive.”

Supplements to watch

Stampfer cautions against taking selenium supplements.

“We have good evidence that they raise the risk of dying of prostate cancer, so men should definitely avoid them,” he says.

“And I would avoid separate calcium supplements and juices or milk with added calcium.” Some studies find a higher risk of prostate cancer in men who get more than 2,000 milligrams of calcium a day.

Should men get a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test to screen for prostate cancer?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises men aged 55 to 69 to discuss the pros and cons with their doctor, given the risk of overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

“I recommend a PSA test every few years for men who expect to live at least 12 to 15 more years,” says Stampfer. “If your PSA is below 1.0 at age 60, the risk is so low that you can stop testing.”

His worry: “The incidence of advanced disease at diagnosis seems to be going back up. Some potentially preventable prostate cancer deaths are being missed. Some guys who didn’t get a PSA test may have missed their chance to be diagnosed and treated earlier.”

But if you have a high PSA—or a biopsy showing cancer—don’t panic.

“The decision to do a biopsy shouldn’t be automatic,” says Stampfer. “And if a biopsy finds cancer, you should have more tests and consider active surveillance rather than rushing into surgery.”

Warning signs of prostate cancer

  • Weak or interrupted urine flow
  • Difficulty starting or stopping urine flow
  • Need to urinate often especially at night
  • Sudden urge to urinate
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Pain in the back, hips, or ribs that doesn’t go away
Photo: CLIPAREA.com/fotolia.com

The information in this post first appeared in the April 2019 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.


Find this article interesting and useful?
Nutrition Action Healthletter subscribers regularly get sound, timely information about staying healthy with diet and exercise, delicious recipes, and the inside scoop on healthy and unhealthy foods in supermarkets and restaurants. If you don’t already subscribe to the world’s most popular nutrition newsletter, click here to join hundreds of thousands of fellow health-conscious consumers.

Have a comment, question, or idea?
Send us an email at comments@nutritionaction.com. While we can’t respond to every email, we’ll be sure to read your message.