Is There A Link Between Meat And Prostate Cancer?




In a recent post I mentioned the link between meat and colon cancer.  Now, the question arises about a link between meat and other cancers  … such as prostate cancer.  The answer?  Yes.

First, let me share with you a bit about prostate cancer.  It is one of the top cancers that affect men today, worldwide.  You likely know of someone who has prostate cancer.  If you don’t, I guarantee someone in close proximity has a family member with prostate cancer.  It really is that common.

Many people may know that prostate issues usually begin with symptoms of needing to urinate frequently.  Many men, as they get older, need to get up a few times in the night to urinate.  Often, they cannot go long periods of time in a car or a plane without the urge to urinate.  While that indeed is a symptom of prostate cancer, it is also a symptom of the benign condition known as “BPH” – or ‘benign prostatic hypertrophy’.  That just means the prostate is enlarging (which causes the urge to urinate), but it is not enlarging because of a cancer that is growing.   But, since the two can be difficult to differentiate, especially at the beginning, it is wise for any man who is experiencing these symptoms to get it checked out with their doctor.

OK, so now that we have a foundation about prostate cancer – what effect does your diet really have?

To begin, multiple studies have demonstrated, over and over again, that diets high in saturated fat, dairy products, and meat will increase the risk for prostate cancer.  In fact, so many studies have demonstrated this that it is a fact that no one questions.  If you eat a diet high in saturated fat, dairy and meat (ie. the ‘typical American diet’), you will indeed have a higher risk of prostate cancer.  That could easily explain why we in the US have far higher rates of prostate cancer than other nations that do not eat the same way we do.

Probably one of the most famous studies every done on prostate cancer and food was the study conducted at Harvard.   The study actually was composed of 15,000 male doctors.  Medical folks are often the easiest to enroll and follow in such studies, by the way … Anyways, they followed these doctors and recorded what they ate, as well as the ‘plasma fatty acids’  – which simply means the documented fat in the blood.  The goal was to see a correlation between this measurement and the incidence of prostate cancer.

What did they find, you ask?  Well, here is the major finding:

  • Those who had red meat 5 or more times a week were 2.5 times more likely to get prostate cancer than those who only ate meat once a week

While this was impressive, Harvard wanted to go one step further.   So, they conducted a “Health Professionals Follow-up” study.  This time they enrolled 51,000 male health professionals and followed them over a period of 3 to 4 years.  The goal of this study was to specifically understand how red meat does indeed impact the risk of prostate cancer – and to what degree.  What they found in this study was this:

  • Those who consumed the highest amount of red meat, not only increased the risk of prostate cancer, but it also was correlated to the more aggressive, advanced form of prostate cancer.

So, there you have it.  Harvard has done it’s due diligence and demonstrated without any doubt that eating red meat indeed will have a huge effect on a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.  I encourage anyone who has a special man in their life to take this information to heart!  Prostate cancer does not need to be such a common killer as it is today – As it is proven in several other nations who rely more on a plant-based diet.

Here’s to improving your health, one day at a time!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack August 20, 2010 at 7:14 am

Would a mere 3 to 4 years be an adequate time to follow subjects who may be say in their early 40s while prostrate cancer/enlargement, normally manifests itself at 50 plus for most men that I know who have had it, many much later than that. So a follow-up should be very much longer. Or did they select people who were in a more advanced age. Statistics can often be made to show what the researcher wants to show. Need a control group. Obviously you haven’t stated the whole story from Harvard. How effective is a PSA test? I read on the internet the other day, didn’t make a note of the name of the writer, that a PSA test says nothing and helps sustain pharmaceutical companies either directly or indirectly.

Janet Bruno MD August 20, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Hi Jack,

Thanks for your comments and questions!

You bring us some very valid points. I am inherently skeptical of statistics because of the very nature that you state – the researcher often can demonstrate whichever position he/she wants to promote. That is why I really do try to go very deep, to ensure that the trends and conclusions are as accurate as possible.

There certainly is a lot more to share about The Physician’s Health Study, but since not everyone loves all the details, I normally aim to keep things concise. The Physician’s Health Study, which was composed of Part I and Part II, was designed of “15,000 willing and eligible male physicians aged 55 years old and older.” So, they did indeed target the correct age group. It was a “randomized control trial”, so there indeed was a control group. The follow-up time was 3-4 years as stated in my blog post for that variable, and up to 12 years for other variables (such as the specific effect of beta-carotene). This was an exciting initial study and there is definitely much more to learn on this topic with future studies. If you’d like to really jump into the details of that study, here is a great link from the NIH.

Regarding your comment about PSA … I would not agree that a PSA says nothing. However, there can be a wide range of conditions that can cause the PSA value to change, so it is not the ideal marker that it was once thought to be.

I hope these comments provide you some clarification. I encourage you to remain a very active participate in your health!

Dedicated To Improving Your Health,

Janet Bruno MD

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