By Deirdre Tynan • 02 September 2021 • 13:58
Spain achieves presidency of United Nations World Food Security Committee. Image: Wikimedia
In a study to examine a Mediterranean diet in relation to prostate cancer progression in men on active surveillance, researchers found that men with localized prostate cancer who reported a baseline dietary pattern that more closely follows the key principles of a Mediterranean-style diet fared better over the course of their disease.
“Men with prostate cancer are motivated to find a way to impact the advancement of their disease and improve their quality of life,” said Justin Gregg, assistant professor of Urology and lead author of the study. “A Mediterranean diet is non-invasive, good for overall health and, as shown by this study, has the potential to effect the progression of their cancer.”
After adjusting for factors known to increase risk of cancer getting worse over time, such as age, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and tumour volume, men with a diet that contained more fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals and fish had a reduced risk of their prostate cancer growing or advancing to a point where many would consider active treatment. The researchers also examined the effect of diabetes and statin use and found a similar risk reduction in these patient groups.
The study, whose largest number of participants were white, also found that the effect of a Mediterranean diet was more pronounced in African American participants and others who self-identified as non-white. These findings are significant as the rate of prostate cancer diagnosis is more than 50 per cent higher in African American men, who also have a higher risk of prostate cancer death and disease progression.
“The Mediterranean diet consistently has been linked to lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and mortality. This study in men with early stage prostate cancer gets us another step closer to providing evidence-based dietary recommendations to optimize outcomes in cancer patients, who along with their families, have many questions in this area,” said Carrie Daniel-MacDougall, associate professor of Epidemiology and senior author of the study.
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United States. Since most cases are low-risk disease, localised to the prostate and have favourable outcomes, many men do not need immediate treatment and opt for active surveillance by their doctor. Treatments for prostate cancer can cause changes in quality of life and declines in urinary and sexual function, therefore there is interest in finding modifiable factors for men managed by active surveillance.
The study followed 410 men on an active surveillance protocol with Gleason grade group 1 or 2 localised prostate cancer. All study participants underwent a confirmatory biopsy at the beginning of the study and were evaluated every six months through clinical exam and laboratory studies of serum antigen PSA and testosterone.
Trial participants were 82.9 per cent Caucasian, 8.1 per cent Black and nine per cent other or unknown. The median age was 64, 15 per cent of the men were diabetic and 44 per cent used statins.
The men completed a 170-item baseline food frequency questionnaire, and Mediterranean diet score was calculated for each participant across 9 energy-adjusted food groups. The participants were then divided into three groups of high, medium and low adherence to the diet.
After adjustments for age and clinical characteristics, researchers saw a significant association between high baseline diet score and lower risk of cancer grade progression. For every one-point increase in the Mediterranean diet score, researchers observed a 10 per cent lower risk of progression. After a median follow-up of 36 months, 76 men saw their cancer progress.
The study was limited by the low number of events in these men with mostly low risk disease monitored at MD Anderson. Future research is needed to see if the same effects are seen for larger and more diverse patient groups and men with higher-risk prostate cancer.
“Our findings suggest that consistently following a diet rich in plant foods, fish and a healthy balance of monounsaturated fats may be beneficial for men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer,” Gregg said. “We are hopeful that these results, paired with additional research and future validation, will encourage patients to adapt a healthy lifestyle.”
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Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.
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