9 Ways to Cut Your Prostate Cancer Risk
While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent prostate cancer, the second-most common cancer in men after skin cancer, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Thanks to #science, experts now know that there are multiple factors that make it more or less likely that someone will develop prostate cancer. Using this knowledge to your advantage can help you take care of your health. Here are nine steps that can help you protect yourself from prostate cancer.
Follow a Healthy Diet
“First and foremost, I would recommend general healthy diet guidelines to encourage overall health,” recommends Justin R. Gregg, M.D., a urologist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Some evidence suggests the Mediterranean diet specifically may help protect against prostate cancer, he says. While more research is needed, he says, it’s still an awesome health choice for other reasons (hello, heart health). Want to eat more of a Mediterranean diet? Work on increasing your intake of fruits and veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein like fish, suggests the Mayo Clinic.
Limit Charred Red Meat
When it comes to what to avoid in your diet, charred meat is a big no-no if you’re looking to reduce your prostate cancer risk. “Charred meat releases a carcinogen that can lead to some types of prostatic inflammation that may lead to prostate cancer,” explains Ashley Ross, M.D., a urologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Gotta have occasional grilled meat? The National Cancer Institute recommends either pre-microwaving your meat so it spends less time over the flames, or continuously flipping it to prevent charring.
Get Moving With Regular Exercise
If you’re worried about your prostate cancer risk, getting enough exercise should be a top priority. “There’s data that being physically active can potentially prevent the development of prostate cancer and certainly prevent progression of disease and poor outcomes of disease once diagnosed,” says Dr. Ross. “The minimum recommended amount should be about 30 minutes a day, five days a week, of moderate physical activity.” Moderate-intensity physical activities are things like brisk walking, biking slower than 10 mph, gardening, and doubles tennis, says the American Heart Association.
Watch Your Weight
Related to diet and exercise is the question of weight—does it impact prostate health? There is some evidence that if your height and weight put you in a group with a body mass index (BMI) above 30, you may be at increased risk of prostate cancer diagnosis. “Therefore, maintenance of a healthy weight throughout life may decrease risk,” Dr. Gregg explains. There's no magic solution: Just be consistent in your focus on eating well and exercising often, and you will keep the pounds where they need to be.
Increase Your Vitamin D
“Various evidence shows that vitamin D may be protective against prostate cancer,” says Dr. Ross. That means getting some sunlight exposure, he says, but in moderation—you still need to worry about skin cancer, too! Interestingly, the risk of prostate cancer is highest in the United States among men who live north of 40 degrees latitude, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and this may have something to do with reduced sunlight during the winter months in these areas. You can also talk with your doctor about whether it might be wise to take vitamin D supplements if you’re deficient.
Ejaculate More Often
You read that right: There’s some evidence, including a study in European Urology, that a higher number of ejaculates per month (21 or more) may help protect you from prostate cancer development, explains Dr. Ross. “Because the glands of the prostate are secreting fluid that forms part of the ejaculate, if fluid accumulates in the prostate, potentially that fluid can build up, and that might incur a type of inflammation that can be oncogenic [tumor causing],” he explains. So if you were looking for a reason to get busy more often… You’re welcome!
Consider a Daily Baby Aspirin
Speaking of inflammation as a potential risk factor for prostate cancer, it’s possible that some anti-inflammatory medications could be protective, too, says Dr. Ross. This could include taking a baby aspirin a day—but there’s a caveat. “There are risks to this, so the American Medical Association hasn’t recommended it,” he adds. Those risks include the possibility of spontaneous bleeding—so this definitely isn’t a step you want to take without consulting your doctor first, he says.
Talk With Your Doctor About Medications
There also may be other drugs you can take to help reduce your risk of prostate cancer, says Dr. Ross. The ACS names 5-alpha reductase inhibitors as a class of medications that may help lower your prostate cancer risk. They work by blocking an enzyme in the body that creates dihydrotestosterone, which is the main hormone that causes prostate growth. That said, more research is needed to fully understand whether these drugs can significantly reduce prostate cancer risk in the long term, the ACS says.
While there’s no sure way to prevent getting prostate cancer—one of the biggest known risk factors is in your genes and family history—adequate screening can help you catch prostate cancer earlier if it does develop. “You can ask your doctors or a genetic counselor about genetic tests to learn about your individualized risk to determine how much you should be screened for prostate cancer,” says Dr. Ross. The earlier you’re diagnosed, the better your treatment outcomes are likely to be.
The Bottom Line on Prostate Cancer Prevention
There’s no way to guarantee you won’t get prostate cancer at some point in your life—but understanding the known protective and risk factors can help you make sure you’re taking all the steps you can to reduce the chances. Plus, taking steps that lead a healthier lifestyle could improve your treatment outcomes if you do end up developing cancer. “Even with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, most men die of other causes,” says Dr. Gregg. “Therefore, being cognizant of things like cardiovascular health and decreasing the risk of developing other comorbidities is important.”
- Mediterranean Diet Information: The Mayo Clinic. (2019.) “Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan.” mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801
- Reducing Cancer Risk From Charred Meats: National Cancer Institute. (2017.) “Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk.” cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet#are-there-ways-to-reduce-hca-and-pah-formation-in-cooked-meats
- Physical Activity Recommendations: American Heart Association. (2018.) “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids.” heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults
- Ejaculation and Prostate Cancer Risk Study: European Urology. (2016.) “Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Updated Results with an Additional Decade of Follow-up.” pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27033442/
- Prostate Cancer Basics: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020.) “What Is Prostate Cancer?” cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/basic_info/what-is-prostate-cancer.htm
- Prostate Cancer Risk Factors: American Cancer Society. (2020.) “Prostate Cancer Risk Factors.” cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html
- Prostate Cancer Screening Recommendations: American Cancer Society. (2020.) “American Cancer Society Recommendations for Prostate Cancer Early Detection.” cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/acs-recommendations.html
- Exercise and Prostate Cancer Risk: Hopkins Medicine. (2021.) “Combat Prostate Cancer with Exercise.” hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/prostate-cancer/combat-prostate-cancer-with-exercise