If you were one of the 19,000 Canadian men diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, then you've already faced some difficult treatment decisions. You may also be wondering if there's anything else you can do — any other choices you can make to decrease your risk of recurrence, no matter what therapy you're undergoing. The good news is that all signs point towards yes.
As with other cancers, a few important "risk factors" are linked to prostate cancer — age, hormones, race and genes all play a role. For example, the disease seems to progress more rapidly in some groups, such as people of African descent, than in others. Likewise, your risk of developing prostate cancer is two to five times higher if your brother or father is affected. Unfortunately, these are the types of things we're born with; after all, you can't very well change your family history at this point! But there is at least one risk factor you can do something about — your diet.
Current research in prostate cancer suggests that changes in so-called modifiable risk factors, such as diet, may translate into very meaningful benefits. Like all cancers, prostate cancer is caused by genetic mutation. Genetic mutations are either inherited or acquired through exposure to harmful substances in our environment (for example, we know that cigarette smoke can lead to lung cancer). Although inherited factors are important in some prostate cancers, the overwhelming majority are related to the environment — and diet seems to be key. A host of observations forms the basis of this belief, especially when researchers look at the international variance in prostate cancer incidence.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men living in the Westernized World, such as Canada, the United States, Northern Europe and Australia. In other nations, however, prostate cancer is rarely diagnosed. This mostly includes countries in the Pacific Rim (such as Japan, China, Taiwan and
Thailand), several Middle Eastern countries and Northern Africa. A Japanese man, for example, is 10 times less likely to die from prostate cancer than a typical North American man. Men from Thailand are a whopping 100 times less likely! By looking at the world-wide differences in cancer rates, we see that prostate cancer is either related to environmental factors, such as diet, or due to the unique genetic make-up of a country's citizens.
Nature or nurture?
But which is it — genes or environment? "Migration" studies may offer some answers. After examining the prostate cancer rates among people who move from low-risk countries like China and Japan to high-risk areas like Canada, researchers discovered that their risk of prostate cancer rises. Not only that, but the children of these immigrants have almost the same chance of developing prostate cancer as the locals. These studies suggest that it's the environment or lifestyle elements, such as diet, as opposed to inherited traits, that are largely responsible for the disease. If genetics were a more important factor, then Chinese and Japanese Canadians would be at low risk for prostate cancer — but they're not.
Although we don't yet know the full relationship between the food we eat and prostate cancer, the news is encouraging. This book is designed to guide you through the process of changing your eating habits for the better, in the hopes of helping fight the cancer and improving your overall health. Who knows? You might even like it!
This book is our best attempt to offer nutritional counselling related to prostate cancer. But because the research is yet incomplete, you should know that we cannot make any claims that following this diet plan will, in fact, help or harm you. Men currently taking medications and/or men with pre-existing health conditions, such as kidney disease or diabetes, should consult their physicians before undertaking a diet change or taking nutritional supplements. The suggestions in this book are not meant in any way to replace treatment or therapy suggested by your doctor, but rather to complement them.
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