Since my latest scare, when my PSA spiked and a color Doppler MRI showed a small but discernable growth in my tumor, my immediate focus has been on whether or not to begin treatment with IMRT. At the same time my wife, Jeanne, has been drawing my attention, once again, to my diet, and to which supplements can slow cancer growth.
It amazes Jeanne how this critically important topic is underemphasized when treating prostate cancer, despite overwhelming evidence that diet affects cancer growth. And even knowing what I know, I have been paying scant attention recently to my diet. Clearly now is the time to change that.
Extensive studies have proved that while certain foods are helpful in reducing PSA levels and cancer growth, other foods are not. First among the “not helpful” foods is animal protein that, particularly in the form of red meat, has been associated with an increasing incidence of prostate cancer. Other animal proteins—milk, cheese and eggs—also fuel the pace of cancer cell growth. As do all sugars, fats, and processed foods. In other words my basic food groups! But I can’t ignore the evidence. Dr. Dean Ornish, of cardiac diet fame, has achieved significant reduction of PSA levels in men with prostate cancer who went on his program consisting of a vegan diet (vegetarian, non-dairy) supplemented with antioxidants such as lycopene and selenium.
So given I intend to up my intake of “cruciferous vegetables”—in other words, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage--that have been associated with a 50% reduction in prostate cancer risk, which supplements should I add to my diet?
Well, eating tomato sauce, which is high in lycopene would be a good start. A compilation of multiple studies measuring the amount of tomatoes in the diet, particularly cooked tomatoes, showed a 20% reduction in prostate cancer risk with increased consumption. (Lycopene can also be taken as a supplement.) And along with lycopene, selenium has strong antioxidant properties. Higher levels of selenium in the blood are associated with a 50% reduction in the incidence of prostate cancer. But as I am not a big consumer of Brazil nuts, clams, turkey or mushrooms, I am pleased to note that selenium can also be bought as a supplement in any good health food store.
There is increasing evidence that vitamin D inhibits prostate cancer growth. In studies using pharmacologic doses of synthetic vitamin D in men with relapsed prostate cancer, PSA levels stabilized and even declined in some men. Mark suggests a supplement of 2000 IU daily. He also advises against taking multivitamin or multimineral supplements as in some cases they may accelerate cancer growth.
It is much easier to swallow a pill than to change the dietary habits of a lifetime, but I intend to cut out red meat and eat more leafy greens and cooked tomatoes. And then there is pomegranate juice. According to Erik P Castle M.D., a urologist at the Mayo Clinic, early research suggests that drinking 8 oz of pomegranate juice daily may slow the progression of prostate cancer. And if you’re concerned about all that sugar, there is, of course, a pomegranate pill!
By the way, from everything I have read, dark chocolate is packed with flavonoids, a group of phytochemicals that act as antioxidants. I will take a closer look at chocolate in my next blog.