A new analysis of 27 studies from around the world has found that drinking alcohol can raise by about 10 percent to 20 percent the risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer or dying from the disease. The more alcohol, the higher the risk.
Canadian and Australian researchers pooled the best 27 studies they could find from 16 countries around the world. Men who drank some, but less than two drinks a day, had about an eight percent greater risk of prostate cancer than men who didn’t drink at all. Men who consumed three to four drinks a day had a 14 percent greater likelihood, and men who drank more than four drinks a day an 18 percent greater risk, of developing or dying from prostate cancer.
Other studies have found that alcohol can also increase the risk of cancers of the breast, pancreas, skin, and digestive system, the researchers noted.
Men have a higher risk of prostate cancer if they:
- are over 50
- have a father, brother, or son who had prostate cancer
- have had a biopsy that found high grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN)
- are of African ancestry
“It’s associated with advanced or fatal prostate cancer only at very high intakes,” says Lorelei Mucci, associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
In a recent study that followed more than 47,000 health professionals for 24 years, a higher risk of advanced or fatal prostate cancer showed up only in men who got at least 2,000 milligrams of calcium a day.
You’re not likely to reach 2,000 mg without a calcium supplement, notes Mucci. (Expect 300 mg in a cup of milk, about 200 mg in a typical slice of cheese or container of yogurt, roughly 300 mg in the rest of a typical diet, and about 200 mg in most multivitamins for men.)
But it wasn’t clear that it was calcium— and not phosphorus—that explained the increased risk of prostate cancer. (Phosphorus is found not just in dairy foods and meat but in phosphate additives in processed and restaurant foods.)
Extra pounds also matter.
“Being overweight or obese is associated with an increased risk for more advanced prostate cancer,” says Mucci.
On the brighter side, research suggests that the lycopene (or something else) in cooked tomatoes, tomato sauce, and other tomato foods may protect the prostate.
“Men who consume two to three tomato-based foods per week have a lower risk of developing a more advanced prostate cancer,” says Mucci. And, she adds, in a recent study on men with prostate cancer, “fewer new blood vessels were being formed by the tumors of men who had consumed high levels of lycopene compared to men who had not.” Tumors need to grow blood vessels to spread.
Researchers are also studying men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer to see what might lead to a recurrence. Among the findings: “Men who did brisk walking had a lower risk of recurrence and a lower risk of mortality after diagnosis,” notes Mucci.
However, “recurrence is not a very strong predictor of prostate cancer mortality,” she cautions. “Less than 20 to 25 percent of men who have a recurrence go on to develop metastatic disease. The big, unanswered question is whether a change in lifestyle or diet can improve survival, especially for men with advanced disease.”
The warning signs of prostate cancer:
weak or interrupted urine flow, difficulty starting or stopping urine flow, the need to urinate often especially at night, sudden urge to urinate, blood in the urine or semen, pain or burning with urination, pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away.
Note: Some of these symptoms can be caused by other conditions such as an enlarged prostate.
Source of new study: BMC Cancer 16: 845, 2016.
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