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Plant-Based Foods May Slow the Spread of Prostate Cancer, Reduce Recurrence: New Study

By Maxwell Rabb,

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Eating more plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, could help reduce the progression of prostate cancer and significantly decrease its chance of returning, according to new research from the University of California at San Francisco.

Researchers led by Vivian Liu, a clinical research coordinator for the Osher Center for Integrative Health at the university, examined men who had already been diagnosed with prostate cancer and remained at risk for the cancer growing or returning following treatment. Liu and her team observed more than 2,000 participants to determine how diet might influence prostate cancer outcomes, finding that participants eating more plant-based foods displayed a 52% lower risk of disease progression and a 53% lower risk of recurrence compared with those whose diets contained the least amounts of plants.

Eating to Beat Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is currently the second-most common cancer among men, with an estimated 288,300 new diagnoses and 34,700 deaths expected this year. Risk factors include age and certain gene mutations. Additionally, African Americans are disproportionately impacted by the disease. Despite the risks, Liu notes that this study provides evidence that men can protect themselves from prostate cancer with a simple dietary solution.

“This is something men can do for themselves with a healthy grocery shopping list,” Liu told The Washington Post. “And it doesn’t require drugs or other medical interventions.”

The researchers observed 2,038 men with early to midstage prostate cancer, observing how plant-based diets correlated with cancer survivorship by using data from the CaPSURE Diet and Lifestyle (CDL) sub-study. The plant-based sub-study research started in 2004 to allow researchers to track changes in prostate cancer patients. To conduct the study, the participants were asked to complete questionnaires about the foods they ate. Participants weren’t provided any information about the study’s designated purpose.

Using the data, Liu and her team observed how dietary patterns affected prostate cancer recurrence and progression for a median period of 7.4 years. During the study period, only 10% of participants (204) experienced advances in prostate cancer, which Liu emphasizes is a low number. Liu also noted this study provides clear evidence that eating more plant-based foods offers significant benefits for those fighting prostate cancer.

“While not all diets are equal in terms of modifiable risk factors for prostate cancer progression, we hope these results guide people at risk to make better, more healthful choices across their entire diet,” Liu said in a statement.“We’ve known that diets that include vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains are associated with numerous health benefits, including a reduction in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality. We can now add benefits in reducing prostate cancer progression to that list.”

The study was presented last week at the 2023 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Genitourinary Cancers Symposium. The team aims to continue this research in the coming years. Liu plans to analyze how plant-based diets affect prostate cancer mortality rates and quality of life following a cancer diagnosis.

Animal Products Associated With Higher Risk of Prostate Cancer

This recent study joins a growing body of research showing that plant-based diets can help reduce cancer risks, whereas diets high in animal products significantly increase the risk of cancer. For example, a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016 found that men who followed a vegan diet had a 35% lower risk of prostate cancer.

One study published in 2022 found that men who consume dairy on a regular basis have a 60% greater risk of developing prostate cancer than men who completely avoid dairy. However, dairy is not the only culprit. Several studies have linked the consumption of meat—and in particular, processed meat—with prostate cancer risk.

Liu and her team’s research supports previous evidence that a healthier diet can slow or stop several types of cancer. A 2011 study showed that a low-fat, plant-based diet positively impacts survival rates for those diagnosed with breast, colon, skin, and prostate cancers.

To learn more about a whole-food, plant-based diet, visit our Plant-Based Primer. For meal-planning support, check out Forks Meal Planner, FOK’s easy weekly meal-planning tool to keep you on a healthy plant-based path.

About the Author

headshot of maxwell rabb

About the Author

Maxwell Rabb

Maxwell Rabb is a freelance writer and editor living in Chicago. His writing can be found at The Chicago Reader, The Beet, and Heavy Feather Review, among others. Find him on LinkedIn.
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