Study Shows Prostate Cancer Survivors Who Eat More Chicken and Less Steak May Live Longer

Researcher: Ying Wang, PhD
Institution: American Cancer Society
Area of Focus: Epidemiology Research, Surveillance & Health Equity Science

The Challenge: Many men who have had prostate cancer are concerned about what they should be eating. For prostate cancer survivors—and all cancer survivors who are in stable health after treatment —the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends following the same guidelines as those recommended to prevent cancer, which include limiting red and processed meat.

Still, little is known about the association between eating meat after a cancer diagnosis and the cause of death from any cause, or specifically from prostate cancer.

Improving this knowledge has the potential to lead to the development of updated dietary guidelines that could improve how long men survive after a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

The Research: Ying Wang, PhD, and her research colleagues at the ACS are working to fill that knowledge gap. Using data from Cancer Prevention Study-II (CPS-II) Nutrition Cohort, they studied the diet of male participants who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer that hadn’t spread far from the prostate (nonmetastatic).

An earlier study that used data from the CPS-II nutrition cohort, along with 14 other cohort studies, suggested foods that might affect prostate cancer risk.

Wang’s more recent study looked at the amount of these foods men ate both before and after their diagnoses of nonmetastatic prostate cancer to gain more insight into the foods’ effects on dying from prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, and death from all causes.

Higher risk associated with certain foods. Results of the study suggest that eating these foods may be associated with a moderately higher risk of developing an advanced stage (stage III or IV) of prostate cancer:

  • Red meat, such as beef, pork, and lamb
  • Processed meats, such as sausage, hot dogs, bacon, ham, and luncheon meats
  • Eggs with the yolk (The study findings also suggest that eating eggs with the yolk, also increases the risk of dying from prostate cancer.)

Higher risk associated with certain portions and frequencies. More specifically, Wang’s team found some linkages for men in the study who ate certain amounts of these foods. For example:

  • Those who ate about 5 servings a week (1 serving is 3 ounces) of either red or processed meat, either before or after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, or both before and after, had a 10% to 20% higher risk of prematurely dying from all causes, mostly from causes other than prostate cancer.
  • Those who ate 1 more serving a day of red or processed meat have a 17% increased risk of dying from all causes and a 19% increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. This study did not support a link between eating red and/or processed meat with increased death specifically from prostate cancer.
  • Those who ate red and processed meat had no association with the progression of prostate cancer, which was consistent with earlier studies.

Lower risks associated with poultry. The study also suggests that eating poultry, including unprocessed chicken and turkey may lower the risk of developing advanced prostate cancer.

Specifically, Wang’s team found that men in the study who ate about 3.5 servings of poultry a week either before or after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, or both before and after, have a 10% to 20% lower risk of prematurely dying from all causes. It’s worth noting, however, that this benefit seems to be driven by unprocessed chicken and turkey sources, rather than slices such as lunch meat commonly used on sandwiches.

No previous studies have specifically examined the effect of eating red and processed meat, poultry, or eggs before a diagnosis of prostate cancer on later cause of death. This was also the first study to look at the effect eating poultry has on all causes of death among survivors of prostate cancer. The authors note more research on the relationship of eating certain types and amounts of meat and dying from prostate cancer is needed.

Why Does It Matter? Ying’s findings provide additional evidence that prostate cancer survivors could benefit from following the nutrition recommendations, such as the ACS Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention, which includes avoiding or limiting the amount of red and processed meat eaten.