Vegetable Fat Slashes Prostate Cancer Deaths

prostate cancerThe link between cancer and diet has been extensively studied, It is known for example that being overweight is related to as many as one in five cancer-related deaths. Weight is most closely connected with cancers of the breast and uterus in postmenopausal women. Other cancers associated with obesity include:

              • Esophagus
              • Pancreas
              • Colon and rectum
              • Kidney
              • Thyroid
              • Gallbladder

But less is known about the association between diet and prostate cancer.  The three well-established risk factors for prostate cancer: are race (specifically, African American race), family history, and age. Unfortunately, these are three things we cannot change. So given this reality, there is much interest in identifying modifiable risk factors for prostate cancer, not least among the roughly 2.5 million men in the United States currently live with prostate cancer.

Now, a new study might provide some hope. It showed that replacing carbohydrates and animal fat with vegetable fat may be associated with a lower risk of death in men with non-metastatic prostate cancer.

olive-oil-walnuts-healthy-fatsErin Richman, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues at UCSF examined fat intake after a diagnosis of prostate cancer in relation to lethal prostate cancer and all-cause mortality in 4,577 men diagnosed with non-metastatic prostate cancer. Their findings have just been published in Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Between 1986 and 2010, the researchers noted 315 lethal prostate cancer events and 1,064 deaths during a median follow-up of 8.4 years. They also discovered that replacing 10% of calories from carbohydrates with vegetable fat, such as oil or nuts, was associated with a 29% lower risk of lethal prostate cancer and a 26% lower risk of death from all-cause mortality.

Overall, the findings suggest that men with prostate cancer should be advised to follow a heart-healthy diet in which carbohydrate calories are replaced with unsaturated oils and nuts to reduce the risk of all-cause mortality.

And although the exact reason for the reduction in mortality is unknown, the authors conclude; “the potential benefit of vegetable fat consumption for prostate cancer-specific outcomes merits further research.”

SRxA’s Word on Health agrees.

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Do DIY “spit kits” stress you out?

One of the fastest growing health care trends in “individualized medicine” is home genetic testing. The over-the-counter mail-in kits, with price tags as high as $2,500, use a saliva specimen to identify small variations in the human genome  associated with heightened risk for diseases such as diabetes and prostate cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has raised concerns about whether the tests are clinically beneficial and has advocated they be conducted under medical supervision, but few studies, to date, have investigated the emotional effects that direct-to-consumer genetic screens have on patients.

Now that’s all changed.  A group of Mayo Clinic physicians and bioethicists have analyzed whether these genetic tests cause patients to experience excessive worry about developing diseases. “We looked for evidence of increased concern about disease based solely on genetic risk, and then whether the concern resulted in changes in health habits,” said co-author Clayton Cowl, M.D.

The randomized study found patients’ worry tended to be modestly elevated one week after the genetic testing, and that people worried more about unfamiliar diseases, for instance the thyroid condition Graves’ disease than those commonly known, such as diabetes.

One year later, however, patients who had undergone testing were no more stressed than those who hadn’t. One surprising result was that men whose genetic risk for prostate cancer was found to be lower than that of the general population, and who also had normal laboratory and physical screening results for the disease, were significantly less stressed about the disease than the control group.

The researchers concluded that the tests may be useful if they prompt patients to make health-conscious changes, such as losing weight or being vigilant about cancer screening.

However, some doctors are concerned that patients who learn they have less-than-average genetic risk for a disease might skip steps to promote good health. Others just think it’s a bad idea – period.  “Genetic testing is a complex, difficult and emotionally laden medical process which requires extensive counseling, contextualization and interpretation,” says Dr. Michael Grodin, professor of bioethics, human rights, family medicine and psychiatry at Boston University.

It’s also worth noting that the current study only assessed the emotional effects of do-it-yourself genetic testing. Nobody yet knows whether a calculation of genetic risk accurately predicts disease.

Have you bought one of these kits?  How did you feel while you waited for the results. SRxA’s Word on Health would love to know.

The Best Father’s Day Gift

Instead of another set of grill tools or yet another tie, a more meaningful gift for Dad this Father’s Day would be to encourage him to get checked for prostate cancer. So say experts at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ).

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer in men, (skin cancer is now the #1) and the second leading cause of cancer death in males. It is estimated that approximately 192,000 new cases of prostate cancer will occur in the United States this year, with 27,000 deaths. African American men are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

The good news is that if detected and treated early, the chances of survival are nearly 100 %.

Screening consists of a digital rectal examination and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

Most healthy men have PSA levels under 4 ng/mL of blood. The chance of having prostate cancer goes up as the PSA level goes up.

The American Cancer Society recommends that men, especially those with several family members who have had prostate cancer at a young age, should consider screening at age 40. African Americans should begin screening at 45 and most other men at age 50.

Men who choose to be tested and have a very low PSA may only need to be retested every 2 years, whereas they may be tested yearly if their PSA result is higher.

So play it safe this Father’s Day and give your Dad the best gift of all – his health.