For American men, prostate cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Lifestyle habits appear to be important in both preventing and treating prostate cancer, and a plant-based diet, especially when combined with moderate exercise, may be helpful as part of such a program.
Total meat consumption and processed meat intake appear to be linked to increased risk for cancer, including prostate cancer. Other diet-related prostate cancer risk factors include deep-fried food consumption, dairy intake, and egg consumption. Dioxins and alkylphenols that may be in animal foods, cooked meat carcinogens and multivitamin use may also raise prostate cancer risk.
When men with active prostate cancer eat a plant-based diet, or even reduce the ratio of animal to plant protein, their cancer progression appears to slow. One way a plant-based diet seems to help is by reducing the amount of excess hormones entering the body. Heavy soy consumption, defined as seven or more daily servings a day, should be avoided, since research shows levels of IGF-1 are comparable to those eating meat. Too much IGF-1 may be linked with cancer cell spread. Restricting the amino acid methionine by lowering animal food intake may help control prostate cancer cell growth. Suppressing the TOR (Target of Rapamycin) enzyme by reducing intake of leucine–rich animal products such as milk may reduce overall risk for cancer, including prostate cancer.
Phytates, found in beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, appear to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells. Vegetables in the cruciferous and allium families and other phytonutrient-rich foods may prevent and inhibit cancer cell growth. In terms of specific foods and beverages, all of the following appear to be associated with reducing the risks of or slowing the growth of prostate cancer:
- Apple peel
- Chamomile tea
- Fenugreek seeds
- Flax seeds
- Orange bell peppers
- Rye bread
Research suggests that men who had their prostates removed and who subsequently reduced saturated fat intake were able to raise their length of cancer-free survival.