Vitamins and Prostate Cancer Risk

Digital Rectal Exam for ProstateProstate cancer is the second most type of non-cutaneous cancer in males.  While lung and bronchial cancer themselves account for 37% of cancer deaths in males, prostate and colon cancer account for another 10%.

While in medical school, I first learned that prostate cancer is actually a slow growing cancer.  As such, in some cases men with prostate cancer can actually live long enough to die of other causes.  However, despite earlier detection with PSA and DRE screening exams, thousands of men die of prostate cancer each year.

In terms of nutrition, obesity is a strong risk factor for developing prostate cancer.  In short, obese men are more likely to die of prostate cancer.  Weight loss consequently may be one way for men to lower their risk of developing prostate cancer.

Important!  Some research suggests that high intake of dietary fat and red meat may also increase your risk of developing prostate cancer. In fact, Asian men with low prostate cancer incidence and mortality in their birth places have significantly higher rates after migrating to Western countries.

Off-Topic:

One blog that I’ve read over the years, Health Habits, by Doug Robb, has fought the war against obesity one blog post at a time.  One of his recent posts discusses the role of government in ‘curing’ obesity.  We can add prostate cancer to the long list of diseases that obesity increases the risk of including diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, among others…

Vitamins and Risk of Prostate Cancer:

A very recent review focusing on the role of vitamins in prostate cancer prevention was published in the journal, Molecules, last month (Donkena et al, 2010).  Unfortunately, the end product of their review was not favorable in supporting the role of certain vitamins such as vitamin A, B, C, D, E, or folic acid at reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Authors Conclusions:

“As discussed above, multiple studies showed the aforementioned vitamins have positive, negative or null effect on reducing PC risk. Even intervention studies can not absolutely determine if these vitamins have anti-PC efficacies.”

In short, the authors conceded that it is difficult to study the role of specific vitamins in preventing prostate cancer since there are too many factors involved.  Specifically, they note that other potential anti-cancer micronutrients coexist in our bodies.

In another related study (Venkitaraman et al, 2010), the authors concluded:

“No significant association was seen between serum levels of the micronutrients, antioxidants or vitamins and either adverse histology on repeat biopsy or PSA velocity. Our data do not support the hypothesis that high serum concentrations of micronutrients, antioxidants and vitamins prevent disease progression in men with localised prostate cancer.”

Conclusions:

At this point, there is no definitive evidence that certain vitamins or micronutrients may actually prevent prostate cancer.  However, it is a difficult to study the specific effects of individual vitamins given the complexity of trying to control for other related factors.

Though the evidence for vitamins in preventing prostate cancer is inconclusive, simply losing weight and limiting your intake of dietary fat would be a good start to potentially lowering your risk of developing prostate cancer.

References:

  1. Donkena KV, Karnes RJ, Young CY.  Vitamins and prostate cancer risk.  Molecules. 2010 Mar 12;15(3):1762-83.
  2. Venkitaraman R, Thomas K, Grace P, Dearnaley DP, Horwich A, Huddart RA, Parker CC.  Serum micronutrient and antioxidant levels at baseline and the natural history of men with localised prostate cancer on active surveillance.  Tumour Biol. 2010 Apr;31(2):97-102. Epub 2010 Feb 16.

6 thoughts on “Vitamins and Prostate Cancer Risk

  1. I think one of the biggest roles in prevention here is awareness. A lot of men are embarrassed to get a check up and so just ignore the quote situation.

    The fact is that similar amounts of men die from prostate cancer each year as women die from breast cancer. Which cancer is getting better funding and awareness? No points for guessing the answer.

    Personally I try to do my part each year by participating in Movember and making it my personal mission to make sure the blokes in my life understand that it’s something they should pay attention to.

    Excellent analytical post here Jarret, sorry for the long comment, guess you touched on something that I find important!

    1. Josh, Movember is an excellent cause, so I’m glad that you pointed it out. Here in Edmonton, most of the Edmonton Oilers (NHL hockey team) participated in Movember which was great to see.

  2. If you recognize symptoms the earlier you act the better. However, present diagnostic tests for prostate cancer are not accurate enough and men continue to die because early detection is poor. Anything you can do to prevent cancer has to be a good thing.

  3. Awareness is what most men lack when it comes to these kind of cancer. As we all know most people and most men focus on preventing much popular diseases such as lung cancer. But with proper education to younger generations, it’s possible to prevent this, knowing that there are no proven vitamins to help supplement the body in preventing it.

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