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Prostate cancer: How to lower your risk

A father and son looking at a recipe on a computer and peeling vegetables.

While there’s no surefire way to prevent prostate cancer, research suggests that risk for the disease may be affected by lifestyle habits and certain medicines.

If you're concerned about getting prostate cancer as you get older, talking with your doctor about your risk is a good way to protect yourself. But that may not be all that you can do.

You can also learn about things that may decrease your chances of getting prostate cancer or dying from the disease.

3 moves that might help lower risk

Check out the following steps that may offer some prostate cancer protection. Some of these things could help keep you healthy in other ways too.

1. Improve your diet. While research hasn't unequivocally proved the role of diet in prostate cancer risk, some evidence suggests that diets high in fat may be a factor. That may be particularly true if the fat comes from animal sources.

For cancer protection in general, the American Cancer Society (ACS) suggests limiting fats from red meat, particularly high-fat and processed meats, and focusing on more plant foods—including a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Researchers continue to investigate whether other dietary components or supplements can affect prostate cancer risk, such as:

Lycopene. Some studies have provided limited evidence that this antioxidant, which is obtained mostly from tomatoes and tomato products, may decrease prostate cancer risk. However, some studies have not shown such evidence. So lycopene's potential benefits remain in question. Taking lycopene supplements also has not been proven to lower prostate cancer risk.

Vitamin E and selenium. Earlier studies indicated that these antioxidants might protect against prostate cancer. However, additional research funded by the National Cancer Institute found that neither supplement helped prevent the disease—and vitamin E alone may even increase the risk.

Calcium. Some research has linked high intakes of calcium or dairy products to increased prostate cancer risk. However, not all studies agree on this, the ACS reports. And of course, calcium is an important nutrient that your body needs to maintain proper health.

That said, it may make sense to try not to get too much calcium from either supplements or your diet, the ACS notes.

2. Watch your weight and stay active. An unhealthy weight may boost your chances of being diagnosed with a more aggressive prostate tumor. In part, this may be because too many pounds increases levels of certain hormones and causes chronic inflammation, both of which can promote cancer growth, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Eating healthy and exercising regularly can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Exercising also helps reduce inflammation—that's another way it may help provide prostate cancer protection.

3. Talk with your doctor about medicines. Studies suggest that finasteride and dutasteride may help reduce a man's risk of prostate cancer by up to 25%. These drugs lower male hormone levels.

However, these medications can cause sexual side effects. And they're not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for prostate cancer prevention.

If you want to learn more about these medicines, you should discuss the potential risks and benefits with your doctor.

The big picture

There's no guarantee that any of the steps listed above will prevent prostate cancer. Also, the most important risk factors—being older than 50, being African American or having a family history of the disease—can't be controlled.

But you may want to discuss some of these ideas with your doctor and learn the potential signs of prostate cancer, such as frequent or difficult urination.

You may also want to know more about your risk factors for prostate cancer by taking this risk assessment.

You can also visit our Prostate Cancer health topic center.

Reviewed 10/17/2023

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