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High-Fat Diet May Raise Prostate Cancer Death Risk

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In a study, patients who ate typical Western Diet had more than twice the odds of dying from the disease

By Robert Preidt

(HealthDay News) — Prostate cancer patients with an unhealthy, high-fat diet have a significantly higher risk of death from the disease, a new study suggests.

“There is currently very little evidence to counsel men living with prostate cancer on how they can modify their lifestyle to improve survival. Our results suggest that a heart-healthy diet may benefit these men by specifically reducing their chances of dying of prostate cancer,” study senior author Jorge Chavarro, of the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a Harvard news release.

The high-fat diet prostate cancer loves.
The high-fat diet prostate cancer loves.

The study involved nearly a thousand U.S. doctors who had developed prostate cancer and were followed for an average of 14 years after diagnosis.

Chavarro’s team assessed the men’s eating habits to see if they had an unhealthy “Western” diet — high in red and processed meat, high-fat dairy products and “refined” grains — or a healthy diet high in vegetables, fruit, legumes (such as beans), fish and whole grains.

While the study couldn’t prove cause-and-effect, the researchers found that men who scored highest in terms of Western eating habits were 2.5 times more likely to die from their prostate cancer, and 67 percent more likely to die from any cause, than those who scored lowest.

In contrast, men who scored highest in terms of healthy eating habits were 36 percent less likely to die from any cause than those who scored lowest, the researchers said.

The study authors stressed that most of the men in the study were white, so results might differ in studies involving other races or ethnicity groups.

African-American Men and Prostate Cancer

African-American men suffer from high rates of prostate cancer,  which is the leading cause of cancer cases and the second leading cause of cancer deaths behind lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

The Prostate Health Education Network, which is based in Quincy, Mass.,  on June 21 will hold rallies at African-American churches in Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington, Birmingham, Ala., Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Durham, N.C., Houston, Jacksonville, Fla., Los Angeles, Miami, Oakland, Calif., Philadelphia, Raleigh, N.C. and Richmond, Va., either to have men checked or to the discuss prostate cancer.  The screenings are free, and they will be held at designated locations. The foundation’s telephone number is 617-481-4020. The email address is rapcancer@prostatehealthed.org.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation reported that black men are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease and more likely to die from it. It is not yet known why there is such a high rate of prostate cancer among African-American men. Five-time Heavyweight Boxing Champion Evander Holyfield (see separate story about him and his public service announcement) recently filmed a public service announcement urging African-American to get regularly checked for prostate cancer. It is not known when the PSA will air.

Thomas Farrington, a prostate cancer survivor, is founder and president of PHEN.

The Western Diet

One expert said Western diets have long had a bad reputation when it comes to health.

“Diets high in animal fat and low in fiber are associated with metabolic syndrome — a collection of conditions including abdominal obesity, elevated blood sugar levels and high blood pressure,” said Dr. Michael Schwartz, a urologist at the Arthur Smith Institute for Urology in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

“It has been known for some time that this type of diet can elevate risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke and various cancers,” he said.

Now, “this study provides evidence for what many of us have for years been telling our patients with prostate cancer — or patients who are interested in prostate cancer prevention,” Schwartz said.

He added that the anti-cancer effects of exercise might play a role as well, in that men in the study who ate healthier might also have exercised more.

The research was published online June 1 in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

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