Urologist Craig Zippe, MD, is certified by the American Board of Urology and is fellowship trained in urologic oncology. He is a published author with more than 100 manuscripts and dozens of book chapters. Dr. Zippe has spoken nationally on urological issues. Dr. Zippe sees patients full-time at The Ashtabula Clinic. He has a special interest in prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Zippe, call 440-997-6970.
Urologist Craig Zippe, MD
Ashtabula County Medical Center
When I am asked how women can encourage the men in their lives to stay healthy, I tell them one simple thing: Tell the men in your lives to get a PSA blood test. This simple test – a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test reveals if there is a chance cancer is forming in the prostate or elsewhere.
Further tests may be needed, but this simple blood test helps us start the diagnosis process. In conjunction with other tests, we are able to detect prostate cancer before men start experiencing any symptoms. Why is that important? It is easier to treat cancer in its earliest stages. By the time you experience symptoms our options become limited.
We do not yet have a means to prevent prostate cancer, but research suggests that lifestyle habits and medication lower your risk of it developing later in life. I like to explain it like this, what you do to help your heart will also help your prostate. Changing your diet and exercise level at any age can dramatically improve your heart health and your prostate health. The changes I hope you will make after reading this may seem dramatic if you are used to getting little exercise and eating foods that have low nutritional value, but they truly are not that difficult.
Cut the fat
Evidence suggests that diets high in fat, especially animal fat, may increase your risk for prostate cancer. There are also other proven benefits of reducing dietary fat. You lower your risk for other cancers, heart disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome and more.
For cancer protection in general, the American Cancer Society suggests limiting fats from red meat, particularly high-fat and processed meats (such as bacon or sandwich meat). Instead, focus on more plant foods—including five or more daily servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Be careful when reading recipes and purchasing packaged foods. There are new marketing campaigns claiming “plant-based” or “from plant protein.” These may be true to their word, but check the ingredients list to ensure no hidden sources of animal fat.
Vitamins and minerals
The right food choices contain vitamins and minerals your body needs to fight off illness or disease. If you choose to supplement your food choices with a multi-vitamin or other dietary supplements, just be careful not to buy into the hype. There are plenty of over-the-counter and online dietary supplements that claim to target prostate cancer and other frightening diseases. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is still researching many vitamin and mineral combinations to see how they affect prostate cancer, but so far there are few proven facts that a single vitamin or combination of vitamins will fight cancer better than a balanced diet. Lycopene, which can be found in tomatoes, looks promising, but all the facts aren’t in yet. If you do choose to take dietary supplements, they should come from reputable companies that have been tested by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
What not to avoid
I hate these stories that play off your fears, and here is one that needs to go away. There is no proof that dairy products can increase prostate cancer risk. The fear is that too much calcium can lead to prostate cancer. While too much of anything can lead to health problems, the fact is calcium is an important nutrient, so it’s important to get the recommended amount for your sex and age.
Watch your weight, and stay active
We do know there is a link between obesity and prostate cancer. When your body is overweight, it works harder just to maintain itself. Throw in any disease and the body is stressed even more. Maintaining a healthy body weight and staying active may decrease your risk of dying from prostate and other types of cancers.
Talk with your doctor about medicine
There is a growing amount of research on medication that may prevent or at least slow down the development of prostate cancer. You need to sit down with your family physician or a urologist to talk about whether medication is the right treatment for you. There is no sure-fire prevention, but if your doctor is concerned about your prostate, there are a variety of medicines he or she could recommend. Since the quality and efficacy of medicines are improving every day, don’t rely on advice from a friend who advises what worked for him. Talk to a medical professional who knows of the best medication for you, and who can warn you about interaction with other medication you may be taking.
The big picture
There’s no guarantee that any of the steps listed above will prevent prostate cancer. We cannot control what is perhaps the most important risk factors – being older than 50, being African American or having a family history of the disease.
Take time to learn the potential signs of prostate cancer, such as frequent or difficult urination.
You may also want to learn more about your risk factors for prostate cancer by taking a risk assessment at www.acmchealth.org. For information about the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening, talk with your health care provider.
Remember, you need to remind the men in your life to ask specifically for the PSA blood test if their medical provider does not require it.