March is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. 1 man dies every hour of prostate cancer in the UK. Here’s my 2nd tip for how you can reduce your risk.
Eat plenty of legumes such as…
Peas, beans, lentils and peanuts.
Why do they help prevent prostate cancer?
As well as being a great source of protein, they also contain other components that may help to prevent cancer in general and hormone-related cancers like prostate cancer in particular.
What should I eat?
The strongest effects are believed to come from soya – soya beans, tofu, tempeh and soya milk – as these contain a relatively high amount of isolflavones which appear to have stronger anti-prostate cancer effects than other phytoestrogens.
How much do I need to eat?
Research suggests that you can reduce your risk of prostate cancer if you eat:
- 3 to 4 servings a week of different kinds of peas, beans, lentils and nuts (especially peanuts). A serving is 80g.
- 3 to 4 servings of soya food per week such as tofu or tempeh and regular, daily consumption of soya milk. A serving of soya food is 80g. A serving of soya milk is 400ml.
- Breakfast smoothie made with soya milk: soya milk, banana, a couple of tablespoons of oats, a dollop of peanut butter, a few drops of vanilla essence for added flavour and sweetness.
- Soya yoghurt with chopped nuts stirred in.
- Cannellini bean and tuna salad; cannellini beans, tinned tuna, chopped red onion, chopped tomatoes, chopped parsley, oil and lime juice dressing.
- Hummus and grated carrot sandwich on wholemeal bread.
- Butter bean and tomato soup: a carton of good quality tomato soup (read the label to check salt level as this can often be high in ready made soups) or home made tomato soup. Thrown in a can of butter beans, drained and rinsed, mash up a bit with a fork or use a hand-held blender to whizz in some of the beans, but leave most whole for texture, and hey presto, butter bean and tomato soup.
- Stir fry with marinated tofu.
- Chickpea and spinach curry.
- Chili con carne with lots of kidney beans and just a small amount of lean minced steak.
What’s the evidence?
- Studies show that men who eat higher amounts of soya and phytoestrogens in general have lower rates of prostate cancer.
- Many Asian countries where people eat a lot of soya have very low prostate cancer rates.
- Japanese men who have moved to the USA have a higher rate of prostate cancer than those who stay in Japan (though many other factors could be involved, of course).
- One study which followed over 12,000 men for 16 years found that those who drank soya milk once a day had a 20% lower risk of prostate cancer, and those who drank it more than twice a day had a 70% lower risk.
- Another study which followed over 14,000 men for 6 years found eating peas, beans or lentils more than three times a week reduced the risk of prostate cancer by 47% compared to men who ate these foods less than once a month. This amounts to a risk reduction of about 18% to 19% for every portion of beans, peas or lentils you eat each week.
- A Dutch study of over 58,000 men over 6 years found eating 62g (one portion) of legumes a day reduced prostate cancer risk by 29%.
Although not all studies have shown an effect, these and others suggest that eating legumes in general and not just soy can have a protective effect against prostate cancer.
How does it work then?
Legumes contain oestrogens known as phytoestrogens (phyto = plant) which are chemically similar to human oestrogen. Oestrogen is normally thought of as a female hormone, so somewhat confusingly perhaps, it’s perfectly normal (and necessary) for men to produce oestrogen too; it’s just that the balance between oestrogen and male hormones like testosterone is different in men and women.
It is thought that plant oestrogens behave in the body in the same way as the oestrogens produced by the body itself. Oestrogen is a growth hormone. It also opposes and balances the effect of the male hormone testosterone. It is thought that phytoestrogens help to prevent prostate cancer by taking the place of the body’s own oestrogens thus blocking their role in tumour growth. Similarly, suppressing testosterone production, opposing its effects, and blocking the conversion of ordinary testosterone to an even more potent from, DHT, they help to block the role of testosterone in tumour growth.
Some phytoestrogens also act as anti-oxidants, which help to prevent the kind of damage to cells that can precede cancer.
Preventing the blood supply to tumours
Some also help stop tumours growning blood vessels, which inhibits their oxygen and nutrient supply and slows growth or may help stop tumours spreading to other parts of the body.
Source: The Prostate Care Cookbook by Prof. Margaret Rayman, Kay Dilley and Kay Gibbons.