Study: AICR Recommendations Lower Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer

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Man eating watermelonA new study appearing in the journal Nutrition and Cancer found that following at least four AICR/WCRF recommendations for cancer prevention reduced men’s risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer tumors by 38%.

The study, which came out of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, looked at adherence to seven of AICR’s ten recommendations in over two-thousand African-American and Caucasian men aged 40-70 recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. The risk of aggressive tumor development was found to be lower in those men who followed four or more recommendations regardless of race.

Why should I pay attention?  I thought only old guys in their eighties got prostate cancer.  After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men. One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer sometime during his life.  In 2013, almost 239,000 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and nearly 30,000 will die from the disease.  Being overweight, smoking, and a lack of vegetables in the diet are linked to a higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer (as opposed to the slower-growing form of prostate cancer). Aggressive cancers mean lower survival rates, making these findings on preventing aggressive forms even more relevant.

What am I supposed to do? For overall cancer prevention, AICR’s expert report and continuous updates recommend maintaining a healthy weight, getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day, eating at least five servings of vegetables and fruits daily, choosing more whole grains and legumes, and cutting down on red meat, sugary drinks, salt, and alcohol. Trying to make lots of changes to your life all at once might seem daunting, frustrating, or even impossible, so start with one or two of these that seem easiest for you. The study found that for every recommendation followed, risk for aggressive prostate cancer was reduced by 13%, which means every effort counts no matter your age.

Which recommendations pack the most punch for prostate cancer?  In this study, two recommendations, by themselves, linked to decreased risk of aggressive prostate cancer: limiting red meat – beef, pork and lamb – to no more than 18 ounces cooked (about 4 hamburgers or two 8-ounce steaks) per week, and avoiding calorie-dense foods. Check out AICR’s findings on overall prostate cancer risk factors here.

What the heck does “calorie-dense” mean?  The term calorie-dense refers to foods that tend to be higher in calories per bite, like high fat meats (i.e. that big steak) and foods with added fats and sugars. By choosing foods with fewer calories per bite, like water-rich fruits and veggies (lycopene-rich watermelon and tomatoes are especially protective), fat-free milk, and leaner meats like chicken and fish you can eat more food and get fewer calories.

Avoiding calorie-dense foods may pack a one-two punch: in this study it linked to a lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer. And research suggests that a low calorie-dense diet makes losing or maintaining weight a whole lot easier, which protects against cancer too.  What’s more, following these recommendations also reduces the risk of colorectal cancer (the second leading cause of cancer deaths in America) and other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, meaning more men can look forward to longer, healthier lives with their families.

Happy Fourth of July – pass the watermelon, please.

Arissa Anderson is an MPH/RD candidate from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and dietetic intern with the American Institute for Cancer Research. Connect with Arissa on Twitter @ArissaAnderson.

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