Prostate cancer begins in the prostate – a small walnut-shaped gland in men. It usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs for many years. While it is not clear what causes the cancer, certain lifestyle factors are associated with a higher risk of developing the disease. New evidence suggests a popular food may heighten a person’s risk.
According to findings published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, high consumption of dairy products appears to be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.
The findings are the result of two meta-analyses that crunched data on 47 studies looking at the diet of more than a million men.
The researchers found that men who ate higher amounts of cheese, butter, milk and yoghurt were between seven percent to 76 percent greater risk of developing the disease.
Further bolstering the claims, the researchers found those following a vegan diet saw their risk of developing the disease fall by around 35 percent.
John Shin, MD, a Mayo Clinic oncologist and lead author on the study, said: “Our review highlighted a cause for concern with high consumption of dairy products.
“The findings also support a growing body of evidence on the potential benefits of plant-based diets.”
Accounting for the relationship, Dr Shin said: “Since dairy products are rich in calcium, this raises the possibility of calcium playing an important role in the link between dairy and prostate cancer.
“Most studies showed that plant-based foods are associated with either decreased or unchanged risk of prostate cancer, whereas animal-based foods, particularly dairy products, are associated with either increased or unchanged risk of prostate cancer.”
Supporting the case for following a plant-based diet, high fruit and vegetable intake was linked to a reduction in risk of the disease by between 19 and 59 percent.
Dr Shin also suggested that other lifestyle factors may play a greater role in influencing prostate cancer risk: “It is notable that the incidence of prostate cancer is much higher in black men of African ethnic origin, who generally consume few dairy products, compared with white men.
“The prevalence of prostate cancer has increased markedly in south-east and east Asia, where few dairy products are consumed, which would indicate that lifestyle factors, other than dairy food consumption, are responsible for the global epidemic prostate cancer.”
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
As the NHS explained: “Prostate cancer does not usually cause any symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis (urethra).
When this happens, men may notice the following symptoms:
- Needing to urinate more frequently, often during the night
- Needing to rush to the toilet
- Difficulty in starting to urinate (hesitancy)
- Straining or taking a long time while urinating
- Weak flow
- Feeling that a person’s bladder has not emptied fully
- Blood in urine or blood in semen
These symptoms do not always mean a person has prostate cancer, the health site notes.
Many men’s prostates get larger as they get older because of a non-cancerous condition called prostate enlargement.
People may experience additional symptoms if the cancer has spread.
- Bone and back pain
- A loss of appetite
- Pain in the testicles
- Unexplained weight loss.