Sunday, February 14, 2010

Prostate Cancer and Diet

Two of my friends, both men in their sixties, were recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. One of my former partners at Smathers & Thompson, a man I had known 40 years, a fine amateur athlete all of his life, died of the disease last year at age 77. I continue to represent a widow of another partner, a man who died of prostate cancer in the early 1990s when in his sixties. "In men aged forty to fifty-nine, the risk of developing prostate cancer is one in fifty. In men aged sixty to seventy-nine, it's one in seven. And over the course of his lifetime, an American man's risk of developing prostate cancer is one in six." (Walsh at p. 45, see full cite below.) The disease has my attention.

I happened to be meeting with a client last Monday who is a physician. Although he is not a urologist, so many of his friends have been diagnosed with prostate cancer that he has made a study of it. Because some of those friends were/are also doctors, he has been able to discuss the matter with them at a high level. The subject came up between the two of us because one of the two friends of mine recently diagnosed is a friend of his.

He recommended Dr. Patrick Walsh's Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer (Second Edition), which I am now reading. It is well written and very informative. (Patrick Walsh is a world renowned urologist and the physician at Johns Hopkins who developed the modern surgical approach to the treatment of prostate disease.)

As to the influence of diet, Dr. Walsh writes:

Animal fat is bad for you, especially the fat found in red meat and dairy products. Men who eat a lot of those foods are more likely to develop advanced prostate cancer and die from it. Why? There is an enzyme in prostate cancer cells that craves the fatty acids in dairy products and red meat. Consequently, when a man with prostate cancer consumes a diet high in those foods, his cancer cells get nine times more energy than normal cells. Further, these cells produce hydrogen peroxide, which causes still more oxidative damage to DNA and more mutations, leading to further progression of the disease.

Dr. Campbell addresses the diet-prostate disease connection in his The China Study. He quotes on page 178 from a 2001 Harvard review of the research as follows:

. . . twelve of . . . fourteen case-control studies and seven of . . . nine cohort studies [have] observed a positive association for some measure of dairy products and prostate cancer; this is one of the most consistent dietary predictors for prostate cancer in the published literature [my (Dr. Campbell's) emphasis]. In these studies, men with the highest dairy intakes had approximately double the risk of total prostate cancer, and up to a fourfold increase in risk of metastatic or fatal prostate cancer relative to low consumers.

1 comment:

mary said...

Ooh, I bet that enzyme is m-aconitase, catalyzing the formation of isocitrate from citrate in the krebs cycle. (You can find it on that lovely flow chart posted on my tumblr page). It's what would be at work to break down the remnants of proteins and fatty acids (and glucose--everything, really) in the diet. We just learned, too, that zinc dampers its activity in the prostate, so an adequate intake of zinc (which you should have with a healthy, balanced diet--I'm not saying supplement) is also helpful to prevent malignancy.