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Why Eating a Low-Cholesterol Diet is Important for Prostate Cancer

September 17, 2015

Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer among men and more than 220,000 of them will be diagnosed with the disease this year.

Though age is significant risk factor for prostate cancer (60 percent of cases occur in men over age 65), diet also plays an important role. According to the American Cancer Society, men who eat fewer fruits and vegetables and more red meat and high-fat dairy products often have a higher risk for prostate cancer.

Now, recent research suggests that diet also may affect cancer recurrence in men with prostate cancer. A study published in “Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention,” suggests that higher levels of cholesterol and triglycerides—two types of blood fat—may cause cancer to return in some men. The study involved more than 800 men who underwent surgery to remove their prostate gland. Men with higher levels of cholesterol and triglycerides were more likely to get cancer again compared to men with normal levels of these fats. Some men in the study who had high cholesterol and triglycerides levels also greatly benefited from a diet filled with more “good” HDL cholesterol, which doesn’t clog the arteries. In the latter group, consuming a certain amount of good cholesterol caused the risk of cancer recurrence to drop by 39 percent.

The study suggests that there is a link between high cholesterol and cancer recurrence, not necessarily a cause and effect relationship. Other research has indicated that high levels of cholesterol also may play a role in the growth of prostate cancer tumors.

These findings highlight the importance of eating a low-cholesterol diet—not just to lower cancer risk, but also for overall health. A diet filled with saturated fats and cholesterol increases your risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and several other chronic diseases.

Modify your diet to lower your cancer risk. I know this is easier said than done, but small changes every day can help you make a big lifestyle change long term. On average you should consume no more than 13 grams of saturated fat a day, which accounts for between five to six percent of your daily calories. Foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol also tend to be high in calories, so minimizing them will help you maintain a healthy weight.

To start, make simple dietary changes like swapping chicken with the skin on for skinless chicken breast or other cuts of white meat that are better for you. Switch from whole milk to 2 percent and replace butter with healthier alternatives like olive oil or low-fat spreads. Most importantly, limit your consumption of red meat. Regularly feasting on a 12-ounce Porterhouse steak or chili with loads of high-fat ground beef is not good for your cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than six ounces a day of fish, lean meat and skinless chicken in total. Avoid fatty cuts of beef and limit your portion size to three ounces (about the size of a deck of cards) and bake, grill or broil instead of fry. Oats, nuts, beans and fatty fish like mackerel and salmon have proven cholesterol-lowering benefits, so try to stick to items within these food groups.

Too many men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, but we hopefully can lower these numbers with more prevention and by educating everyone about risk factors. Eating a healthy, low-cholesterol diet can lower your cancer risk, so pay closer attention to everything you put on your plate.

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