Whenever I discuss prostate cancer with the men in my integrative medicine clinic in San Jose, Calif., the perception of this disease widely varies from extensive fear to, surprisingly, almost ambivalence. Some men are extremely uncomfortable with the mention of it. Others think it's no big deal because "don't most men get it eventually anyways." But, all of these men agree that if there is any way for them to prevent it or at least make the stage of the disease more benign if they got prostate cancer or postpone the onset of disease until they are significantly older, they would be happy to take a supplement or change their lifestyle for that.
My patients are correct in that the prevalence of prostate cancer is higher with increasing age. However, as with any other cancer, lifestyle changes and nutrition may have significant impact on disease onset and progression. As with any other cancer, avoidance is key and early detection is imperative. Fortunately, since prostate cancer impacts so many lives, we have somewhat more clinical data to help guide us in our quest of avoidance and early detection.
I have a patient in my clinic who has a family history of prostate cancer in his father and grandfather in their mid-60s, and he was very concerned about prostate cancer. Due to his health concern, he had been taking supplements for "cancer prevention."
He was on a multivitamin, extra calcium citrate at 1200mg per day since he is lactose intolerant, and vitamin D3 at 10,000IU per day. He came to see me because he wanted help with his supplements and he wanted help with weight loss because he read that being overweight worsened cancer risks. I applauded him in his proactive role in his health and we set out on a road towards helping him achieve his goals.
My first task was to address his diet. He kept a nutrition log for me over the course of several months and as we fine-tuned his diet more towards a plant-based, anti-inflammatory diet, he began to lose weight at about five pounds per week at the beginning and then down to about 2-3 pounds per week in the last few months before he hit his target weight.
He learned to cut out refined sugar and ate more vegetables and fruits to lower his glycemic load in his diet. He ate nuts and fish for healthy fats and protein through these and legumes. He stopped drinking soda and coffee and started drinking green tea and oolong tea.
Whenever he had a sweet craving, he either used stevia in his tea or he ate frozen berries drizzled with a small amount of dark chocolate. He used agave nectar for his tea or whole wheat pancakes. We also incorporated about two servings of soy daily along with freshly ground flaxseed daily for his intake of phytoestrogen in the soy and lignans of the flaxseed to help with prostate cancer risk prevention.
While the first task took well over 10 to 12 months to achieve his goals of weight loss, the other task of optimizing his supplemental regimen was faster moving. I gave him a lab slip at the first visit for testing of vitamin levels and hormonal levels including his thyroid and testosterone. We also had him get a digital rectal exam by his primary care doctor and a baseline prostate PSA level; both of which were normal.
I also had a discussion with him about his calcium intake and his vitamin D intake. He had not gotten his calcium or vitamin D levels checked in a while. So when his levels came back high normal for calcium and his D level was 70, I discussed with him about implications of his labs and these two vitamins. In studies that looked at vitamin D for men, they saw that levels of around 50 were ideal for men and that unlike women, where it seemed that the high normal ranges were ideal, men were better at around a D level of 40-50. There was concern that higher levels of D were potentially associated with prostate cancer. Same was true with potentially higher levels of calcium intake in men. Since his parathyroid hormone level and calcium were normal, I had him change his calcium intake to about 1000mg per day total between his multivitamin and his separate calcium citrate. (1-3)
As we discussed further his supplements, we decided that he would get majority of his flavonoids and antioxidants from his foods. Both he and I agreed that food as medicine was the best way to go for his combined goal of weight loss and cancer prevention. However, he wanted a few supplements to aid in the process. I chose curcumin with black pepper, resveratrol, fish oil, and indole-3-carbinol for him at appropriate dosages. He would use foods for fiber and phytonutrients.
With this regimen in place and a healthy weight loss plan that got him to his goal weight, he is well on his way to staying healthy. Even though our genes play a significant part in our health, how we surround those genes in a healthy environment also will affect the expression of those genes.
By providing a nutrient-rich environment via our food and supplements and incorporating rest, relaxation, and exercise into our daily life, our body's ability to fight the negative genes in their expression are improved. In this instance, his regimen, diet, and ability to maintain a healthy weight has kept him healthy thus far... and we are hoping that his body will continue to support us in this endeavor while he provides his body with all the tools it needs to function as an optimal machine of healing and wellness.
1. Albanes, et al. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2011 Sep;20(9):1850-60. Epub 2011 Jul 22.
2. Park Y, Mitrou P, Kipnis V, et al. Calcium, dairy foods, and risk of incident and fatal prostate cancer: The NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. American Journal of Epidemiology 2007; 166(11):1270-1279.
3. Presti J. Current Opinion in Urology: January 2005 - Volume 15 - Issue 1 - pp 13-16