Prostate cancer is a subject most men would rather not think about. Everything about it — from early diagnosis by a “digital rectal exam” to potential side-effects of incontinence and erectile dysfunction — makes men want to crack open a beer and change the channel.
A big factor in this avoidance behavior is that 1) We fall for the notion that genetics play a big role in whether we get the disease or not; and 2) Since there’s nothing we can do to change our genes, we think we might as well do what we like and hope for the best.
What we need to know before we get swept into the vortex of mainstream medical options — from early diagnosis to eventual surgery, radiation, or hormonal treatments — is that our lack of knowledge about how to easily reduce our risk factors is causing us to avoid taking preventive measures.
Read that last paragraph again if you need to. What it says is, “Your lack of clear understanding of how to reduce your risk is making you more likely to get the disease you fear.”
Knowledge Is Power
As a man in my 60’s, I can say that, indeed, we men like to feel we are in control of our situation. This is no doubt a big factor why we dislike having to turn our fate over to a doctor who may lead us down a path with undesirable consequences.
To put it bluntly, we don’t want to relinquish control to a doctor who may leave us wearing adult diapers or impotent for the rest of our life.
Well, from my reading of the medical literature, I have learned some good news that all men should be aware of: We can greatly lower our risk of developing prostate cancer by adopting a healthy lifestyle, something we should be doing anyway.
Before I go into what these risk factors are, let’s throw out one misconception that may have been keeping you from taking truly preventive measures:
Your genes are not the deciding factor over whether you develop cancer — It is the expression of those genes that you need to focus on. And you can largely control whether these bad genes get expressed or “switched ON” by how you eat, by minimizing toxic exposures, by getting enough sun, and by staying fit and at your ideal weight.
Now here comes the part you may have a problem with:
If you want to be one of the group of men who are least likely to contract prostate cancer, you will need to become a vegetarian. This is according to the Website “Medline Plus”, published by the National Institutes of Health. Very mainstream, although they didn’t put it quite that way.
There are a couple of other facts I must add to make this article as accurate as possible: #1) These risk factors are “controllable” ones — obviously, we can’t control our genetic heritage, our race, and our age; and #2) We will focus on the aggressive forms of prostate cancer, which are far more likely to be fatal, rather than the slow-growing forms which may go unnoticed and are seldom the cause of death.
So, here is a summarized list of Seven Controllable Risk Factors for Aggressive Prostate Cancer:
* Meat (especially red meat) consumption is a major risk factor (Especially implicated are the heterocyclic amines, which are produced by flame-broiling meats. Darn! There goes the manly pastime of barbequeing, too!)
* Smoking is a risk factor.
* Being a painter, being a non-organic farmer, manufacturing tires, and exposure to Agent Orange — all are risk factors related to chronic toxic exposures.
* Living in a city north of the 40 degrees latitude in the U.S., which is believed to be the result of less sun exposure during winter months, and therefore lower vitamin D levels. This is especially a problem for dark-skinned people.
* Living a sedentary life.
* Being obese
* High calcium intake, especially from dairy products.
(Some dietary items that have shown promise is helping reduce your risk of prostate cancer are Green Tea, Tomato/Tomato Products, Broccoli-family vegetables, as well as supplements of Vitamin E, D, and the mineral Selenium.)
We are faced with some hard choices, guys!
Is cutting your risk for prostate cancer to almost nothing* worth giving up some of the dietary pleasures we associate with being “manly”? I would say, “You bet!” I figure it’s better to reduce excess testosterone by giving up eating steak than to have those hormonal levels reduced by surgery, radiation, or chemical means — and deal with some really unmanly side-effects for the rest of my life.
Moving to a warmer latitude, changing occupations, giving up ice cream, becoming more physically active and losing weight can be difficult, but probably aren’t as challenging to our masculine identity as going vegetarian.
The additional benefits of not having to worry so much about heart attacks, stroke, obesity/overweight, and dementia, though, make the decision a no-brainer in my reckoning.
The biggest hurdle for us to overcome is the mental block that by giving up eating meat, we will automatically become less strong and less virile. This is totally absurd. Just look at our closest animal relatives the chimps, bonobos, and gorillas — who eat mainly leaves and fruit — to see if they are weak and impotent.
In the final analysis, the decision is up to you whether you want to reduce your risks for prostate cancer as low as possible. I am not a doctor, so I can’t tell you what you should do. These are merely the result of a broad study of the scientific evidence and the conclusions I arrived at for my own health.