Cancer prevention is an important aspect of our daily lives. For men, the most prevalent cancer diagnosed is prostate cancer. While most men with prostate cancer do not die from it, many suffer from treatment related side effects such as urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Finding ways to prevent or reduce one’s risk for developing prostate cancer is a high priority. Our previous blog discussed nutritional habits that could reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. Now we will focus on other factors that could reduce such risk.
Exercise: Evidence is mounting that inflammation and oxidation play key roles in the development of prostate cancer. Research suggests that regular exercise may be one of the best natural antioxidants. Exercise causes many changes in the body that help reduce circulating levels of reactive oxygen inflammation. A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology evaluated the effects of exercise in prostate cancer patients. Men with at least 3 hours per week of vigorous activity had 49% reduced overall mortality and 61% reduced prostate cancer mortality compared with men with less than 1 hour per week of vigorous activity. A recent Swedish study supported these findings, concluding that both aerobic exercise and resistance training clearly improve overall and prostate cancer-specific survival.
Sex: A 2004 study from the NIH initially suggested frequent sexual activity might reduce the incidence of prostate cancer. This was further supported by a recent review of 32,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study who were followed for 18 years. Prostate cancer risk was 20% lower in men with more frequent sexual activity. According to the study lead author, Jennifer Rider, “Safe sexual activity could be good for prostate health.”
Proscar and Avodart: Proscar and Avodart are prescriptions that are used to “shrink” the prostate by lowering the amount of male sex hormones. The drugs block the enzyme that changes testosterone into dihydrotestosterone(DHT), a much more potent hormone. Higher than normal levels of DHT may also play a part in developing prostate cancer.
The Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT) studied whether finasteride (Proscar) reduced the incidence prostate cancer. The trial found fewer prostate cancers in the men who took finasteride compared with the men who did not, but the men who took finasteride and developed prostate cancer had more aggressive tumors. The number of deaths from prostate cancer was the same in both groups.
The Reduction by Dutasteride of Prostate Cancer Events Trial (REDUCE) studied whether the drug dutasteride (Avodart) reduced the risk of prostate cancer. This study again showed there were fewer prostate cancers in men who took dutasteride compared with the men who did not, but the number of aggressive prostate cancers was not significantly reduced.
Statins: There has been tremendous interest recently in these the effect these cholesterol-reducing medications may have on the development of prostate cancer. There have been at least 18 trials to date, several of which have found a reduced risk of cancer recurrence after both surgery and radiation therapy, suggesting that statins may slow the progression of prostate cancer. Research is ongoing to determine if statins may actually reduce the incidence of prostate cancer.
Metformin: Metformin is a prescription medication used primarily for the management of diabetes that has also been found to have a potential protective effect on the progression of prostate cancer. A recent study of nearly 4,000 diabetic men found that those taking metformin when diagnosed with prostate cancer were less likely to die from thecancer or other causes compared to men using other diabetes drugs. Prior research focused on whether metformin might reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer has been negative. More studies are currently underway.
Aspirin: As discussed in a previous blog, there has been extensive research looking at the relative effect of aspirin on the incidence of prostate cancer. While many of the studies demonstrated a protective effect, others did not. The jury is still out on aspirin.
Regardless of one’s diet or lifestyle, knowledge is one of the best ways to reduce prostate cancer risk. By staying informed on the latest scientific research regarding prostate cancer prevention, men can make small changes in their lives that can lead to big improvements.