Prostate Cancer Overview

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Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention TOPICS

Can prostate cancer be prevented?

The exact cause of prostate cancer is not known, so it is not possible to prevent most cases of the disease. But based on what we do know, there are some things you can do that might lower your risk of prostate cancer.

Body weight, physical activity, and diet

The effects of body weight, exercise, and diet on prostate cancer risk are not clear, but there may be things you can do that might lower your risk.

  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight - some studies have found that men who are obese (very overweight) may have a higher risk of prostate cancers that are likely to be fatal
  • Be physically active - studies have linked regular exercise to lower risk of prostate cancer.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables - Several studies have suggested that diets high in certain vegetables or fish may be linked with a lower risk of prostate cancer, especially more advanced cancers. The American Cancer Society recommends that men eat at least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day.

Studies have also linked diets high in calcium to a higher risk of prostate cancer, so it may also make sense to limit calcium supplements and to not get too much calcium in the diet (unless your doctor tells you otherwise).

For more information, see our document American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.

Vitamin, mineral, and other supplements

Some earlier studies suggested that taking supplements of vitamin E or the mineral selenium might lower prostate cancer risk. But in a large study (known as SELECT), neither vitamin E nor selenium was found to lower prostate cancer risk. In fact, men taking the vitamin E supplements were later found to have a slightly higher risk of prostate cancer. Selenium supplements were also linked to a higher risk of prostate cancer in some men.

Several studies are now looking at the possible effects of soy proteins (called isoflavones) on prostate cancer risk. The results of these studies are not yet available.

Taking any supplements can have both risks and benefits. Before starting any vitamins or other supplements, talk with your doctor.

Medicine

Large studies have looked at 2 drugs used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), finasteride (Proscar®) and dutasteride (Avodart®), to see if they might also help lower prostate cancer risk. The study results did not show a clear advantage of taking these drugs, and so they are not often used just to lower the risk of prostate cancer.

So far, no other supplement or drug has been found to be helpful in studies large enough to allow experts to recommend they should be given to men.

For more information about this, please see our document Prostate Cancer: Early Detection.


Last Medical Review: 08/27/2013
Last Revised: 09/12/2014