With so much research, past and present, looking at diets and their effects on health, it may be no surprise to learn that a new study has found that following a Western diet may increase the risk of death from prostate cancer, the second most common cancer among men in the US, after skin cancer.1
The so-called Western diet is usually associated with health issues such as obesity, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and type 2 diabetes, but there are also concerns about how diets play a role in the development of cancer, and in cancer survival.
Earlier research looked into how the Mediterranean diet might affect prostate cancer specific mortality; however, the researchers did not find any benefit for the patients.2 But researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston performed a study to see what the results would be if they analyzed prostate cancer progress among men who followed a Western diet.3 The 926 men, ages 40 to 84 years, were part of the Physicians’ Health Study, as were the men who were part of the Mediterranean diet study. All participants were diagnosed with nonmetastatic prostate cancer.
The men completed diet questionnaires for a median of 5.1 years after diagnosis, and were followed for a median of 9.9 years after the questionnaires were completed. The researchers divided the men into quartiles based on their diet: a Western dietary pattern (higher intake of processed and red meats, high-fat dairy, and refined grains) or a prudent dietary pattern (higher intake of vegetables, fruits, fish, legumes, and whole grains).
During the follow-up period, 333 participants died; 56 (17%) were attributed to prostate cancer.
The findings showed that the Western-patterned diet was significantly related to a higher risk of prostate cancer–specific and all-cause mortality. “Comparing men in the highest versus the lowest quartile of the Western pattern, the hazard ratios were 2.53 for prostate cancer–specific mortality and 1.67 for all-cause mortality,” the authors wrote. “The prudent pattern was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality.”
The men in the highest quartile, those who consumed a mostly Western diet, were two-and-a-half times more likely to die from prostate cancer. They also had a 67% increased risk of all-cause mortality compared with participants in the lowest quartile. Men who closely followed the prudent diet had a 36% lower risk of all-cause mortality.
As interesting as these findings may be, it is important to note that this was an observational study with self-reported diet diaries. There was also no information about what the men ate before their diagnosis, so the study has its limitations in how it should be interpreted. However, diet is a lifestyle choice that is often one of the easiest things to modify, and eating a healthier diet has many benefits, which may include prostate cancer mortality.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Basic Information About Prostate Cancer.
- Kenfield SA, DuPre N, Richman EL, et al. (2014). Mediterranean Diet and Prostate Cancer Risk and Mortality in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Eur Urol, May; 65(5): 887-94.
- Yang M, Kenfield SA, Van Blarigan EL, et al. (2015). Dietary Patterns after Prostate Cancer Diagnosis in Relation to Disease-Specific and Total Mortality. Cancer Prevention Research, 8; 545.