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Your Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer
What Common Lifestyle Habit May Increase Your Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer? Plus, 10 Steps to Reduce Your Risk
© 2015 Health Realizations, Inc. Update


Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer in U.S. men (lung cancer is the first), and about one in six men will be diagnosed with this disease during his lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Men who drink heavily may be twice as likely to be diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer.

In 2009 alone, over 192,000 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed, and over 27,360 men died of the disease.

However, because prostate cancer is typically slow growing, it accounts for only about 10 percent of cancer-related deaths in men, and only 1 man in 35 will die from prostate cancer. In fact, in studies of older men who died from other diseases, 70 percent to 90 percent had prostate cancer by the age of 80, yet many never knew they had it.

Are You Unknowingly Increasing Your Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer?

While most prostate cancer cases are regarded as highly treatable (more than 2 million U.S. men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive today, according to ACS) high-grade prostate cancer is a more aggressive form of the disease that is more likely to result in a poor prognosis.

According to a new study using data from more than 10,000 men participating in the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, men who reported regular heavy drinking were twice as likely or more to be diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer.

Heavy alcohol consumption was described as 1.8 ounces of alcohol a day or more, while regular heavy drinking was defined as four or more drinks a day on five or more days a week.

How Much Drinking is Too Much?

Guidelines for safe alcohol consumption vary depending on who you ask. The study’s guidelines above, for instance, said four or more drinks a day on five or more days a week increases your risk for aggressive prostate cancer.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heavy drinking is:

  • More than one drink per day on average for women

  • More than two drinks per day on average for men

Note: A standard drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.

Over time heavy drinking is not only a risk factor for aggressive prostate cancer. If you drink enough of it over time, it will affect nearly every organ in your body and can result in numerous health problems, not to mention put a strain on relationships and emotional health, including:

  • Fatty liver

  • Alcohol hepatitis

  • Alcoholic cirrhosis, which can eventually cause liver failure if drinking isn't stopped

  • Chronic gastritis (a daily recurrence of nausea and sickness)

  • Pancreatitis

  • Brain damage (alcoholic dementia)

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Obesity (from the increased number of calories consumed)

  • Stroke

  • Osteoporosis

  • Reduced fertility

  • Cancer (mouth, esophagus, liver, stomach, colon, rectum and breast cancer may all be related to alcohol)

  • Alcoholism

Women and men are affected by alcohol differently, and women may develop related health problems sooner than men and from drinking less alcohol.

What Else Increases Your Risk of Prostate Cancer?

Though it's not known exactly what causes this disease, there are several known risk factors, some of which you can easily control to reduce your risk of prostate cancer.

  1. Age: Your risk of prostate cancer increases with age, particularly among men over 65 years old.
  1. Family history: If a close relative (father, brother) had prostate cancer, it will increase your risk.
  1. Diet: Men who eat a lot of processed meat, bad fats and refined grains have an increased risk of prostate cancer, particularly if they don't eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.
  1. Exercise: Exercise is generally known to reduce the risk of all types of cancer, however men over 65 who exercise vigorously have been found to have a lower risk of prostate cancer, specifically.
  1. Ethnicity: African-American men have the highest rates of prostate cancer in the world, according to the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention.
  1. Environmental chemicals: Researchers are focusing increasingly on the potential chemical causes of prostate cancer. Exposure to pesticides has been linked with an increased risk, as has in-utero exposure to the plastics chemical bisphenol A (BPA) and other hormone-mimicking environmental contaminants.
  1. Cadmium: Exposure to excess levels of cadmium is also known to increase prostate cancer risk. Cadmium is found in foods (shellfish, liver and kidney meats have the highest levels), cigarette smoke, and contaminated air and water (particularly if you live near, or work in, a facility that manufactures batteries, pigments, metal coatings or plastics).
  1. Too many vitamins: Men who take excessive levels of vitamins -- more than seven multivitamins a week -- may be increasing their risk of prostate cancer by 30 percent, according to researchers at the National Cancer Institute.
  1. Too much, or too little, vitamin D. Men who had vitamin D deficiency, or excess vitamin D, both had an increased risk of prostate cancer, according to a study in the International Journal of Cancer.
  1. Vasectomy: Several studies have suggested that men who have had a vasectomy have a slightly higher risk of prostate cancer.

How to Lower Your Risk of Prostate Cancer

Although some risk factors of prostate cancer, like age, ethnicity and family history, are obviously beyond your control, there are plenty of factors that you DO have control over. Making the following changes may help to reduce your risk of this widespread cancer:

  1. Eat more tomato-based foods. Tomatoes (particularly cooked varieties such as tomato sauces, paste and ketchup) are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which is known to prevent damage to DNA and fight prostate cancer. Pink grapefruit and watermelon are also good sources of lycopene.

  2. Eat less processed meat and fewer bad fats. Limiting your intake of processed meats like bacon, sausage and luncheon meats, along with your intake of bad fats, like trans fats, may also help reduce your risk.

  1. Watch your calcium intake. Getting too much calcium (beyond the recommended 1,200 milligrams per day) could actually increase your risk of prostate cancer, according to the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention.
  1. Consume more selenium. Selenium is thought to protect against cancer through its antioxidant content. It also may slow or prevent tumor growth by enhancing the immune system and suppressing blood vessels to the tumor. Foods rich in selenium include Brazil nuts, tuna, chicken, turkey, beef, brown rice, eggs and sunflower seeds.
  1. Exercise regularly. Exercise will not only reduce your risk of prostate cancer, but just about every other type of cancer as well.
  1. Don't smoke. This will increase your levels of cadmium.
  1. Avoid exposure to environmental chemicals. As much as possible, try to limit your exposure to pesticides and BPA (found in tooth sealants, plastic containers and water bottles, microwave ovenware and more). One simple way to do this is to swap out your typical bottled water for a reusable BPA-free water bottle.

Maintaining healthy vitamin D levels, either through sensible sun exposure or supplementation, may reduce your risk of prostate cancer (and other forms of cancer as well).

  1. Get the proper amount of vitamin D. Vitamin D inhibits the development and growth of prostate cancer cells. Experts say 15-20 minutes of sunlight a day is an ideal amount for a light-skinned person to produce the right amount of vitamin D.

A blood test from your doctor, called the 25-hydroxyvitamin D, can determine whether your vitamin D levels are high enough, but you should know that typical laboratory reference ranges may indicate a lower level of vitamin D as “healthy,” when newer research has shown the minimal acceptable level for vitamin D to be 50 ng/ml.

According to the Vitamin D Council, there are three ways for adults to ensure adequate levels of vitamin D:

  • Regularly receive midday sun exposure in the late spring, summer, and early fall, exposing as much of the skin as possible.

  • Regularly use a sun bed (avoiding sunburn) during the colder months.

  • Take 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day for three months, then obtain a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. Adjust your dosage so that blood levels are between 50–80 ng/mL (or 125–200 nM/L) year-round.”

Along with regularly testing your blood levels of vitamin D to make sure you’re in the optimal range -- not too high or too low -- you should make sure your body has the best chances of absorbing the vitamin D.

  1. Limit alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol in excess increases your risk of various cancers, and heavy drinking increases your risk of high-grade prostate cancer.
  1. Take precautions to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. Recent research has found a link between a common sexually transmitted infection, trichomonas vaginalis, and risk of aggressive prostate cancer in men.

  2. Consider taking supportive supplements.

For consideration of any supplement first make an appointment to discuss the best quality product ingredients for your health history and current condition or concerns.




Harvard School of Public

International Journal of Cancer;108(1):104-8

The Collaborative on Health and the Environment

American Cancer Society

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