Can Prostate Cancer Be Prevented?
There is no sure way to prevent prostate cancer. Many risk factors such as age, race, and family history can’t be controlled. But there are some things you can do that might lower your risk for this disease.
Body weight, physical activity, and diet
Some studies have found that men who are overweight may have a slightly lower risk of prostate cancer overall, but a higher risk of prostate cancers that are likely to be fatal.
Studies have found that men who are regularly physically active have a slightly lower risk of prostate cancer. Vigorous activity may have a greater effect, especially on the risk of advanced prostate cancer.
Several studies have suggested that diets high in certain vegetables (including tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables, soy, beans, and other legumes) or fish may be linked with a lower risk of prostate cancer, especially more advanced cancers. Examples of cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Although not all studies agree, several have found a higher risk of prostate cancer in men whose diets are high in calcium. There may also be an increased risk from consuming dairy foods.
For now, the best advice about diet and activity to possibly reduce the risk of prostate cancer is to:
- Eat at least 2½ cups of a wide variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
- Be physically active.
- Stay at a healthy weight.
It may also be sensible to limit calcium supplements and to not get too much calcium in the diet. (This does not mean that men who are being treated for prostate cancer should not take calcium supplements if their doctor recommends them.)
For more information, see the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.
Vitamin, mineral, and other supplements
Vitamin E and selenium: Some earlier studies suggested that taking vitamin E or selenium supplements might lower prostate cancer risk.
But in a large study known as the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT), neither vitamin E nor selenium supplements were found to lower prostate cancer risk. In fact, men in the study taking the vitamin E supplements were later found to have a slightly higher risk of prostate cancer. For selenium supplements, the risk of prostate cancer was unchanged in men who had lower selenium levels at the start of the study. Men who had higher baseline levels, though, had an increased risk of high-grade (fast-growing) prostate cancer.
Soy and isoflavones: 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 vitamins or other supplements, talk with your doctor.
Some drugs might help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
5-alpha reductase inhibitors
5-alpha reductase is an enzyme in the body that changes testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the main hormone that causes the prostate to grow. Drugs called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, such as finasteride (Proscar) and dutasteride (Avodart), block this enzyme from making DHT. These drugs are used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous growth of the prostate.
Large studies of both of these drugs have been done to see if they might also be useful in lowering prostate cancer risk. In these studies, men taking either drug were less likely to develop prostate cancer after several years than men getting an inactive placebo.
When the results were looked at more closely, the men who took these drugs had fewer low-grade prostate cancers, but slightly more higher-grade prostate cancers, which are more likely to grow and spread. Long term, though, this didn’t seem to affect death rates – both groups of men had similar survival.
These drugs can cause sexual side effects such as lowered sexual desire and erectile dysfunction (impotence). But they can help with urinary problems from BPH such as trouble urinating and leaking urine (incontinence).
Although these drugs are safe, they aren’t approved by the FDA to help prevent prostate cancer. Right now, it isn’t clear that taking one of these drugs just to lower prostate cancer risk is very helpful. Still, men who want to know more about these drugs should discuss them with their doctors.
Some research suggests that men who take aspirin daily for a long time might have a lower risk of getting and dying from prostate cancer. But more research is needed to show if the possible benefits outweigh the risks. Long-term aspirin use can have side effects, including an increased risk of bleeding in the digestive tract. While aspirin can also have other health benefits, at this time most doctors don’t recommend taking it solely to try to lower prostate cancer risk.
Other drugs and dietary supplements that might help lower prostate cancer risk are now being tested in clinical trials. But so far, no drug or supplement has been found to be helpful in studies large enough for experts to recommend them.
Last Medical Review: April 1, 2016 Last Revised: April 14, 2016
- Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
- Can Prostate Cancer Be Prevented?
- Finding Prostate Cancer Early
- What Tests Can Detect Prostate Cancer Early?
- American Cancer Society Recommendations for Prostate Cancer Early Detection
- If Prostate Cancer Screening Test Results Aren’t Normal
- Insurance Coverage for Prostate Cancer Screening
- Additional Resources: Prostate Cancer Prevention and Early Detection
- References: Prostate Cancer Prevention and Early Detection