Early stage prostate cancer is often silent, so PSA testing is recommended for men at high risk. Prevention strategies include supplementing with lycopene and selenium.
Prostate health, or lack thereof, affects nearly half of men as they approach the age of 50 or older. Although common, prostate disease is a potentially serious condition that deserves discussion. This month’s Movember movement seeks to raise awareness of men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer.
Symptoms of prostate cancer generally mimic those of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH, or “enlarged prostate”). Both tend to occur with age, although prostate cancer can also happen in younger men. Symptoms include frequent urination, difficulty urinating, a sense of urgency, nocturia, as well as blood in the urine or pain on ejaculation. However, early stage prostate cancer is often silent, leaving regular blood testing as the most important strategy for early detection.
The PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test is used to screen for prostate disease, with higher levels of PSA in the blood predicting a higher risk of disease. Unfortunately, this test is not only specific to prostate cancer, since PSA levels can also be elevated with other prostate diseases, such as BPH.
PSA therefore needs to be interpreted in light of other scores as well. In addition to testing total PSA, the ratio of free-to-total PSA is even more predictive of prostate cancer risk. While elevated total PSA predicts higher risk, a lower free-to-total PSA ratio correlates with higher risk and is more specific for prostate cancer than using total PSA alone. It is therefore crucial to have a health care practitioner with expertise in this area assist you in getting appropriate testing and interpreting the results of these tests.
Men at high risk of prostate cancer based on their PSA levels or other risk factors can benefit from natural preventive measures. Similarly, in those with early stage prostate cancer, which does not usually warrant aggressive anticancer treatment, a “wait and see” approach is often advised. This is the ideal time to implement diet and lifestyle changes, either to prevent cancer that is not yet established or to significantly slow the progression of an early stage cancer.
An exciting dietary agent for the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer is lycopene, a tomato-based flavonoid. Lycopene intake has been associated with approximately 20 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer. In studies of prostate cancer patients, lycopene supplementation was found to slow the rate of disease progression as well as reduce symptoms such as pain and urinary dysfunction. The target dose is 30 mg of lycopene per day—equivalent to 2 Tbsp (30 mL) tomato paste, or one serving of cooked tomato.
In addition, low-dose selenium supplementation has been shown to reduce incidence of prostate cancer by 50 percent. A low dose of selenium at 50 mcg per day is recommended. Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium; one Brazil nut alone delivers 50 mcg.