BPH Versus Prostate Cancer
First, a few basics: The prostate is a gland found beneath the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, the tube the bladder uses to pass urine, and it also produces most semen (along with the seminal vesicles).
At puberty, the prostate is about walnut size, and there is normal growth as a man ages. But when the prostate becomes too large, it places excessive pressure on the urethra, which causes men to experience frequent urination, urinary urges, a weak urine stream, urine retention and pain when urinating. Many guys immediately fear they have prostate cancer, but BPH is an unrelated condition.
“While the symptoms are similar, BPH is not life-threatening and does not put you at a higher risk for developing prostate cancer,” Dr. Han says. Your healthcare provider can perform a physical exam and blood test to make a proper diagnosis.
As for prostate cancer, approximately 234,000 men face this diagnosis each year, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. The good news: The cure rate is better than 90%.
Fortunately, men can take early-prevention steps, according to foundation researchers, who note that “eating certain foods and nutrients might decrease your chances of developing prostate cancer, reduce the likelihood of having a prostate cancer recurrence or help slow down progression of the disease.”
The Dietary Connection
Researchers say men can play an active role in maintaining prostate health—and it should start long before one reaches age 50. Diet and exercise affect overall health, and smart lifestyle choices reduce one’s cancer risk.
In The Prostate Health Program, Drs. Daniel W. Nixon and Max Gomez encourage men to follow the Prostate Health Pyramid, adapted from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Pyramid. (Dr. Nixon is president of the Institute for Cancer Prevention in New York; Dr. Gomez is medical reporter for WNBC, the NBC affiliate in New York City.)
The Prostate Health Pyramid coincides with basic principles of organic living, emphasizing a low-fat diet rich in fiber, fruits and vegetables, as well as regular exercise: at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Obesity (a high body mass index) can contribute to disease risk.
“The best prevention is to treat prostate health as if it were heart health,” says Dr. Barton H. Wachs, a urologist at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in California. “What’s good for heart health is good for prostate health. Exercise, fruits and vegetables, tobacco avoidance and alcohol moderation will lead not only to good heart health, but to good prostate health as well,” he tells OrganicAuthority.
Organic food, of course, reduces your exposure to pesticides and chemicals, so OrganicAuthority.com recommends switching from conventional to organic fruits, vegetables, grains and meats. Prostate Cancer Foundation researchers specifically recommend:
- Tomatoes (rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that helps protect against cancer). Other foods containing lycopene include pink grapefruit, papaya, watermelon and guava, but tomatoes have the highest levels.
- Cruciferous vegetables that are high in fiber (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts).
In addition, Dr. Wachs says studies demonstrate the benefits of selenium (200 milligrams a day), fish oil supplements and monounsaturated fats like canola and olive oil.
“Some individuals report relief using [the herb] saw palmetto,” he says, “and although this was thought to be a universal alternative treatment, recent studies indicate that it may not be as effective as once thought.”
Partner with Your Physician
Even if you’re a man in your 20s, it’s not too early to practice preventive medicine. See a physician regularly for a prostate exam, and allow the doctor to determine whether you’re genetically predisposed to future disease, Dr. Wachs says. Testing can offer peace of mind, while predicting potential problems.
Also, check out this informative blog entitled No Nutritional Difference Between Conventional and Organic Foods? The Organic Center to the Rescue!