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Last updated July 31, 2019. 5 minute read

Consider doing these 6 things to cut your prostate cancer risk

While age, ethnic background, and family history are unchangeable, we may be able to lower our prostate cancer risk by making a few tweaks to how we live our lives. These include drinking more green tea and ejaculating more frequently.

Written by Grant Stoddard
Reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

Immutable. That might be the best word to describe the three most important risk factors for developing prostate cancer. These set-in-stone risk factors are; having a family history of prostate cancer, being of African American heritage and, most significantly, getting older.

According to the American Cancer Society, around six of every ten prostate cancer diagnoses are made in men over 65 years of age (ACS, 2019). And according to a review (Jahn, 2015) of 19 studies published in 2015,  is discovered at autopsy in over a third (36%) of white Americans and more than half (51%) of black Americans aged 70-79. Based on these findings, we might wonder if, on a long enough timeline, every man would develop prostate cancer.

The good news is that while age, ethnic background, and family history are unchangeable, we may be able to lower our prostate cancer risk by making a few tweaks to how we live our lives. And in addition to potentially reducing prostate cancer risk,  these changes are likely to impact overall health positively. Some may even be fun.

Vitals

  • While age, ethnic background, and family history are unchangeable, we may be able to lower our prostate cancer risk by making a few tweaks to how we live our lives.
  • In addition to potentially reducing prostate cancer risk,  these changes are likely to impact overall health positively.
  • Some may even be fun. 

Ejaculate more frequently

A growing body of evidence suggests that the frequency with which men ejaculate may have a marked effect on their risk of developing prostate cancer. The most persuasive case yet was made in 2016 in the form of a study (Rider, 2016) that tracked almost 32,000 men over 18 years.

Researchers discovered that men who did it the most (at least 21 times a month) lowered their chance of prostate cancer by approximately 20% compared with those who did it less (4 to 7 times a month). While scientists broadly agree ejaculation frequency is associated with reduced prostate cancer risk, it’s not yet known how. Whether ejaculation from masturbation, sex, or even wet dreams is equally connected to prostate cancer risk is also unclear.

Eat less red meat, dairy, and saturated fat

The Western diet is characterized by a high intake of red meat, dairy, and saturated fat. Some studies have suggested that a high-fat diet as a risk factor for prostate cancer, including this one which showed that Japanese men living in Japan had much lower rates of prostate cancer (Shimizu, 1991). The study found that those rates increased when they moved to the United States, regardless of their age when they immigrated. This research suggests that there may be some lifestyle factors contributing to the increased prostate cancer risk in the West, including diet.

Further research has looked at the effect of a high-fat diet on the rate at which prostate cancer metastasizes or spreads (Chen, 2018). Researchers found that prostate cancer became more aggressive in mice that were given a high-fat and postulate that the same thing happens in humans. Another finding from the study was that prostate cancers regressed and stopped spreading when the mice were given an obesity drug that blocks fat production.

Drink green tea

While the average Japanese diet contains less red meat, dairy, and saturated fat than the Western diet, green tea consumption is far higher than in western countries. This fact led researchers to investigate whether Japan’s relatively low prostate cancer rates could be due to the amount of green tea its people drink. The study tracked nearly 50,000 men aged 40 to 69 for more than a decade (Kurahashi, 2007). Researchers found that, while green tea did not affect the risk of developing prostate cancer, men who drank more than five cups per day had a lower risk of advanced prostate cancer. Advanced or metastatic prostate cancer refers to when cancer has spread from the prostate to surrounding structures or other parts of the body. When prostate cancer has spread, curing it via radiation or surgery is no longer possible.

Eat more tomatoes

A member of the nightshade family, the tomato was thought to be poisonous when explorers first brought the South American fruit to Europe in the 1500s. By the middle of the 19th century, however, the tomato had become common in kitchens across Europe and North America, and more recently, it’s been connected with lowering the risk of the most common non-skin cancer in men.  According to a 2014 study (Er, 2014), men who consume more than ten servings of tomatoes per week reduce their prostate cancer risk by 18%. It’s thought that lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes which can protect against DNA and cell damage, is the reason behind tomatoes’ possible cancer-fighting properties. More studies need to be conducted to prove this link, however.

Drink more coffee

Are you a confirmed coffee addict? If so,  you’ll be glad to learn about a recent analysis that linked drinking several cups a day with reduced prostate cancer risk. The research suggested that coffee consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.  It also showed that coffee could be associated with a lower risk of fatal and high-grade prostate cancer. The meta-analysis (Lu, 2014) from 2018 involved 7,909 cases of prostate cancer from case-control studies and another 455,123 subjects from cohort studies.

Quit smoking

It should come as no surprise that smoking is a risk factor for many cancers, including those of the lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon, and rectum, as well as acute myeloid leukemia. Smoking’s effect on prostate cancer is less clear, however. Some research (Cerhan, 1997) suggests that smokers have an increased risk of prostate cancer, while one study (Giovannucci, 1999) showed no increased risk of developing prostate cancer in smokers. That same study found that smokers did have a higher risk of dying from prostate cancer than non-smokers, though. Another study (Kenfield, 2011) similarly found that being an active smoker at the time of prostate cancer diagnosis is associated with increased mortality and recurrence.