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Rewriting the Story for Black Men, Part 4:
How Diet, Exercise, and Lifestyle Can Help Lower the Risk of Fatal Prostate Cancer

If you are overweight, if you smoke, are sedentary, or if you eat a high-fat, high-carb, low-vegetable diet, you are doing prostate cancer a favor:  you’re making sure it has a very hospitable environment.

“Cancer is also a chronic disease,” explains PCF-funded physician-scientist Kosj Yamoah, M.D., Ph.D., radiation oncologist and cancer epidemiologist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.  “We know that men with prostate cancer who also have high blood pressure, hypertension, diabetes, and coronary disease – many American men of all races who are affected by one or more of these conditions – do worse with their prostate cancer.  If your body mass index (BMI) is high, if you have cardiovascular disease or diabetes, these are conditions that can be made worse by androgen deprivation therapy (ADT).  If we have a man who might benefit from ADT, but who has chronic conditions that are detrimental to his overall well-being, we may have to give suboptimal care to decrease the risk of severe side effects because of these co-morbid conditions.”

What can you do about it?  Exercise has so many beneficial effects on men with prostate cancer, that it might as well be considered a medicine.  “The most effective avenue for combating the side effects of ADT is exercise,” says Yamoah.  Similarly, “if you are being treated for localized cancer, if you follow a few simple guidelines for wellness, you are going to do better, recover sooner, and have fewer side effects.”

Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean vigorous activity.  Just walking is a great start!  You don’t have to pump serious iron, either; even light weights can help strengthen your muscles and protect your bone density.

If you smoke, there’s never been a better time or reason to quit.  Men who quit smoking immediately begin to lower their risk of dying of prostate cancer.  For more, see this discussion.

PCF has great tips on foods that fight inflammation and that help prevent insulin resistance – both of which can make cancer grow faster.  Caloric restriction – eating fewer calories a day – also may help slow prostate cancer.

“We wish we had medicine to prescribe that had as many beneficial effects as exercise, weight loss, not smoking, and eating an anti-inflammatory diet,” says medical oncologist and molecular biologist Jonathan Simons, M.D., CEO of PCF.  “What’s good for the heart is good for fighting prostate cancer.  What’s good for the blood pressure is good for fighting prostate cancer.  It’s all connected.”

Finally, one easy-to-fix problem that is common in Black men is not getting enough Vitamin D.  “Most Black men are Vitamin D-deficient,” says Yamoah, “especially in the U.S.”  Just spending time outside in the sunshine may not be enough, he adds.  But good news:  an inexpensive, over-the-counter supplement can restore your body’s Vitamin D levels.  Note:  2000 IU is the recommended safe dose of Vitamin D.  It’s not a case of, “if some is good, mega doses are better,” because you can get too much.  Just stick with 2000 IU per day.  What does vitamin D do?  “It’s like flame retardant on cancer,” says Simons.  “It helps cool the inflammatory environment that cancer loves so well.”

See all the stories in this series, Rewriting the Story for Black Men in Prostate Cancer, here:

Janet Worthington
Janet Farrar Worthington is an award-winning science writer and has written and edited numerous health publications and contributed to several other medical books. In addition to writing on medicine, Janet also writes about her family, her former life on a farm in Virginia, her desire to own more chickens, and whichever dog is eyeing the dinner dish.