Prostate Cancer: Reducing the Risks

Jane Plant

          It is well worth looking at the work of Professor Jane Plant. (Her book is called Prostate Cancer: Understand, Prevent & Overcome Prostate Cancer).

Her work on hormone dependent cancers came about from her personal fight against metastatic breast cancer. When all medical treatment failed and she was told no more could be done she decided to use a dietary approach. This was based on her observation that there was very little breast cancer in China. She noted they drank virtually no milk. She cut out all milk products and her cancer started to recede and she eventually made a full recovery and lived for nearly 30 years after.

Milk is a major concern with hormone dependent cancers. Milk comes from cows bred to produce huge quantities of milk as quickly as possible and is high in growth promoting hormones including Insulin Growth Factor One and this increase in hormones is made worse because milk from pregnant cows is also used. Milk contains 5-30 times as many hormones as it did in the past. Although she feels avoiding milk is the single most important step in hormone dependent cancers her approach is much more comprehensive than this and is worth reading. Research in 2001 found having over 2 and a half servings of dairy products was associated with a significantly higher risk of prostate cancer.

In a study done in 2011 milk was dripped onto prostate cancer cell cultures and on average caused a 30% increase in growth rate (whereas almond mild reduced growth by 30%).

        There have been twenty-four studies of the link between milk and prostate cancer with twenty showing a positive association. On average milk doubles the risk and gives a four-fold risk of metastasis.

Iodine and Supplements

            Another consideration is Iodine. Iodine has a suppressive effect on cancer and induces cancer cell death (apoptosis) notably in breast, colon and prostate cancer cells. It is interesting that iodine intake is low in the Western world but high in Japan (they eat seaweed) and prostate cancer is almost unknown in Japan. (Deaths from prostate cancer per year: 18,000 in USA 13 in Japan). The evidence suggests it is worth supplementing about 2-3mg iodine daily. Higher doses (12.5 -50mg daily) may be needed in prostate cancer. (Lugol’s iodine, available Amazon – 2 drops in glass water gives 12.5mg –suggest monitoring thyroid function along with PSA if take long term)

        A trial of 1300 people taking selenium supplements (200mcg daily) showed a 37% reduction in cancer and a 63% reduction in prostate cancer specifically.


          The foods with the strongest positive correlation with prostate cancer (ie harmful) are sugar (+0.72) and milk (+0.59). The foods with the strongest negative correlation (ie protective) are nuts, seeds and pulses (-0.81).

        A study of Swedish men followed for 30 years found those who ate no fish had two to three times the risk of prostate cancer. Another study found men eating oily fish (mackerel, herring, sardines etc) had a greater than 60% reduction in the risk of advanced prostate cancer.

        A study of 2000 men with prostate cancer by the University of Southern California found that eating red meat more than two and a half times weekly, especially if cooked to very high temperatures, increased the risk of prostate cancer by 40%. Burgers had more of an effect than steak. Chicken cooked in the oven had almost no effect but was as bad as red meat if cooked on the stove. The high temperatures appear to create carcinogens. The strongest link is with processed meat (hot dogs, salami, ham, bacon, sausages). There is a 50% increase in risk for every 50g taken daily (equivalent to one hot dog). The reason processed meat are so hazardous is unclear but may be due to nitrates within the meat.

        Men eating lots of tomato products reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 35%. Tomatoes are high in lycopene and a Finish study found link between lycopene in the blood and prostate cancer rates. In another study lycopene reduced PSA levels.

        Men having three or more servings a week of cruciferous vegetables (sprouts, cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower) reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 40% compared with those eating less than one serving a week.

        Omega 3 fats, linseed, selenium and zinc have also shown protective effects against prostate cancer. Gamma tocopherol, a form of Vitamin E reduced the risk of prostate cancer five-fold in one study. Eating fish was also protective against prostate cancer.

Dean Ornish

          Another piece of information comes from the pioneering work of Dr Dean Ornish, best known for his work on the effects of lifestyle on heart disease. His research has shown that most “lifestyle” treatments work better when combined.

 Dr Ornish’s did research on patients with early prostate cancer. These patients often undergo active surveillance before a decision is made about further treatment. Unlike the majority of cancers, disease activity can be monitored using the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test. Ornish compared an experimental group who used a combination of exercise (they walked half a mile per day), vegetarian diet (high in fruit, vegetables legumes and wholegrains), vitamins and supplements, mental imagery, relaxation, breathing exercises and stress management and compared them to controls who used none of these methods.

 The results in the control group were that six out of forty-nine developed worsening of their cancer and went on to have surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy (10% had radical prostatectomy). None in the experimental group needed these treatments. The PSA test, a measure of the activity of the cancer, increased by an average of 6% in the control group, and those requiring treatment developed much higher levels. In the experimental group, the PSA decreased, on average, by 4% and this was accompanied by a sevenfold increase in their ability to inhibit cancer growth.

Ornish also found that our blood naturally has cancer-fighting potential but this can vary considerably. Blood from men eating a standard US diet were able to suppress the rate of prostate cancer cell growth by 9% but blood from those who had been a plant-based diet for one year suppressed prostate cancer cell growth by 70%.

         When biopsies were taken after three months on the program it was found that the expression of 501 genes had changed with genes associated with prostate cancer having shut down. But the most important finding was that the more self-help methods used, the more active their blood was in inhibiting cancer cells. This study was truly ground-breaking, not only in showing these lifestyle measures can help in cancer but that they work even better when combined.


          Exercise (3 hours of moderately intense exercise per week) has been shown to reduce mortality in prostate cancer by 30% and disease progression by 57%. Exercise has also been shown to reduce the incidence of many cancers.

Hormone Disrupting Chemicals

            There has been a huge increase in hormone dependent cancers in the last few decades. These include breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. The exact cause is unknown but most of the suspicion has fallen on endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment (sometimes known as gender benders). The problem due to these chemicals is not small. For instance feminising changes have been seen in one third of male fish in British rivers and there have been global changes affecting many other species across the world from polar bears to alligators. Sperm counts have also dropped precipitously in the last few decades (33% in 15 years in one study).

        The major sources of these chemicals are plastics, pesticides and all chlorinated chemicals such as  dioxins and PCBs. Contamination comes from foods wrapped or microwaved in plastics, pesticides in food, canned food (which typically have plastic liners and contain bisphenol A) and unfiltered water. A study in California found a 64% increased risk of prostate cancer in areas with intensive farming. Countries with the highest use of the contraceptive pill have the highest rates of prostate cancer, presumably due to oestrogen excreted in the water. Many toiletries also contain significant amounts of these chemicals which are easily absorbed through the skin. These pollutants have little immediate effect but accumulate in the body over time. They are found in higher concentration in meat and dairy products.

        You can reduce exposure by using organic products where possible, using a good water filter, avoiding cans and plastic wrappings, kettles with plastic interiors and not using plastics while microwaving. Remember anything you put on your skin is absorbed into the body and anything you smell (such as aerosols, air-fresheners) is taken straight into the body).

Mobile Phones

        There have been 38 cases of breast cancer noted to occur in young women who kept their phones in their bras. Even on standby mobile phones give off powerful electromagnetic radiation which is carcinogenic and interferes with DNA repair. Although there have been no recorded cases of prostate cancer linked to mobile phones I believe keeping a mobile phone in a trouser pocket would increase the risk in a similar fashion.

Pfeiffer Protocol

          Professor Pfeiffer in Switzerland has used this protocol which uses a powerful blend of herbs and nutrients in patients not responding to standard treatment. He has a 65% success rate. Details are on the CANCERactive website.