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You Pick: Radioactive Seeds or Legumes?

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As the age of 60 is on the near horizon for me, I have noticed an increased rate of prostate cancer in my friends and family members.  What I find surprising is that people think that dietary change is more radical than having radioactive seeds implanted into their bodies.

PROSTATE CANCER IN THE U.S.

Prostate cancer is second only to skin cancer among males in the U.S.  1 man in 6 will develop prostate cancer requiring treatment in his lifetime.  Prostate cancer is the most common cause of death from cancer in male nonsmokers, with approximately 30,000 deaths annually.  Because of the association with age, the number of deaths from prostate cancer is expected to increase dramatically over the next 20 years with the aging of the American population.

PROSTATE CANCER MEDICAL TREATMENT

The most common treatments are radical prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland) and radiation therapy, which includes inserting radioactive seeds through the skin in the area between the scrotum and anus and into the prostate.

Prostate cancer can only be definitively diagnosed after a positive biopsy, but the biopsy cannot perfectly distinguish more aggressive prostate cancer and less aggressive (a low risk of spreading to other organs).  Accordingly, while surgery and radiation therapy may be life saving in some men, often those who undergo the treatment do not have cancer with malignant potential.  Accordingly, the success rate of these treatments is probably over-estimated and many men are unnecessarily exposed to treatment side effects (such as impotence and urinary incontinence).

For men that are diagnosed early and who undergo a radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy, approximately 12% will develop metastatic disease (the spread of cancer from one organ to another) and the average length of survival is less than 5 years upon detection.

ROLE OF DIET AND NUTRITION IN PROSTATE CANCER

The impact of diet on prostate cancer development and progression is supported by evidence from a variety of epidemiological and human clinical trials.  One of the early suggestions of the correlation between diet and prostate cancer comes from the observation of the dramatic differences in incident rate between U.S. men and men from China and Japan.

During the period from 1978-1982, Qidong County, China, had an prostate cancer incidence rate of only 0.5 per 100,000 men.  The rate in Osaka, Japan was 6.7 per 100,000.  The rate in the U.S. during this same time period was 102.1 per 100,000.

Upon immigration to the U.S., the incidence rate of prostate cancer in the Japanese immigrants increased 7 times and the rate of their offspring mirrored the incidence rate in the U.S.  While this does not rule out the possibility of genetic inheritance, it does suggest that environmental exposures or lifestyle appear to account for most of the risk versus one’s genes.

Numerous studies have focused on lifestyle factors (smoking, physical activity, sexual history, diet, etc.) and with the exception of diet and body weight, most lifestyle factors have not been strongly associated with prostate cancer.  Epidemiologic investigations suggest that diet, particularly meat and dairy consumption, constitutes an important factor in the development and progression of prostate cancer.

Weighing the evidence from over 20 epidemiologic investigations of dairy products, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research noted that the studies showed evidence of an increased risk of prostate cancer with an increased intake of dairy products.  They concluded that “calcium can be taken to be a marker for dairy intake . . . diets high in calcium are a probable cause of prostate cancer.”

CANCER PROTECTIVE PROPERTIES OF PLANT-BASED FOODS

Plant-based foods (whole cereal grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruits) have been shown in studies to protect against prostate cancer.  Legumes, nuts, carrots, leafy greens,  tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts) have been shown to have the strongest protective effects.  Cruciferous vegetables, in particular, were associated with a reduction of prostate cancer in two population-based studies.

Nutritional factors also appear to influence the recurrence and progression of prostate cancer.  Consumption of dairy and red meat has been associated with an increased risk of metastatic prostate cancer (the spread of cancer from one organ to another).  Adoption of plant-based diets has been associated with prolonged survival and instances of remission of bone metastases.

DIETARY STRATEGY

There is a growing consensus in the medical community of several things we can do to prevent or slow the progression of prostate cancer:

1.     Eat a largely whole food, plant-based diet emphasizing whole grains, vegetables, beans and legumes, fruit, seeds and nuts.

2.     Give added emphasis to foods with anti-prostate cancer properties such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, allium vegetables (onions, garlic, chives, scallion, and leek), sea vegetables, fermented soy foods, turmeric, and green tea.

3.     Reduction of refined carbohydrates.

4.     Avoidance of foods of animal origin, particularly red meat and dairy.

CONCLUSION

There is nothing radical about eating a plant-based diet.  It is nutritious and delicious.

What do Vegan Men Say?  We say, skip the radioactive seeds and pass the legumes.

Doug Meier is attorney that practices in Colorado and writes this column, Vegan Men Say What?

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Author: Doug

Doug Meier is an attorney who practices in Colorado the area of insurance bad faith and legal malpractice. He became a vegetarian 13 years ago and went vegan approximately 2 years ago. He can be reached at dougmeier@att.net or info@veganseatwhat.com