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Prostate Cancer Risk Factors

Cycling, Sexual Activity And Veggies: Impacting Prostate Cancer Risk

Do you believe that a diagnosis of prostate cancer is just bad luck completely out of someone’s control?

In this post, you will learn about the risks associated with prostate cancer –and there are some surprising ones you need to know about! In fact, I want to encourage you to count up how many risk factors you or the man in your life can say YES to…because knowing the level of risk gets someone closer to creating a change.

Stats You Need To Know

Right off the bat, men have a 1 in 9 chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, and we see more cases in African American men. And when Chinese and Japanese men immigrate to the US, they have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Now, it’s not just because they moved to a new country….risk increases with certain dietary patterns practiced here in the States. More about that later.


The older you get, the greater the risk for prostate cancer– with the average diagnosis being 66 years old; however, in the US about 10% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are under 55. I remember being a guest lecturer for the USToo prostate support group meetings in Chicago and we were starting to see younger men in their mid-30s with prostate cancer.


Men with a family history of prostate cancer have a 5-9%  increased risk and If a father is diagnosed with prostate cancer, the son’s risk more than doubles. When a brother is diagnosed, the risk triples. Even a diagnosis in second-degree relatives – so grandfather, uncle, nephew, or half-sibling) almost doubles the risk.

Cancer Res UK

Controllable Risk Factors

We can’t control our aging or change our family history, but there are some other risk factors that are within your control.

Compared with men who had not had vasectomies, men who had a vasectomy were about 20% more likely to have prostate cancer that was aggressive (so, more apt to spread) or cause death.

J Clin Oncol, 2014

Certain occupations are at higher risk too. Is the man you love a firefighter or farmer, or do they work the night shift? Men in these professions may have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer due to chemical exposure like PCBs or they tend to have poor sleep habits- all of which can decrease melatonin levels. Melatonin levels, it turns out, can be protective. Men with higher levels of melatonin reduce their risk of advanced prostate cancer by 75 percent –compared to men who had lower melatonin levels. Pilots are also at least twice as likely to develop prostate cancer compared to the general population because they are exposed to more ionizing radiation. If you are curious about which occupations are tied to prostate cancer – just google “occupations and the risk of prostate cancer” to find out more.

Am J Ind Med, 2007 Chemosphere, 2016  AACR, 2014  Aerosp Med Hum Perform 2015

While we typically associate BRCA mutations with breast cancer risk, Prostate cancer risk is up to 5 times higher in men with BRCA2 mutations compared with the general population. And BRCA1 mutations may be associated as well—we need more studies to confirm this. If a man’s mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, they will have a 120% increased risk of developing prostate cancer. So genetic mutations are linked to this diagnosis. If you are of the belief that you can’t change your genes….well The good news is that WHAT you eat can flip the genetic switch to OFF when it comes to some of these mutations.

J NCI, 1999   Prostate, 2008

And this is where the value of a personalized nutrition plan from Cancer Nutrition IQ comes in: Food can influence how genes are expressed and can delay or stop the development of disease. Food isn’t just food—and when you get a personalized plan for prostate cancer—whether you are trying to prevent or actively fight it, that plan takes into consideration the genetic mutations and hormonal influences that will impact YOU.

Some surprising links to prostate cancer risk

Men who live in the northern part of the United States have a greater incidence of prostate cancer than those who live in the south – researchers speculate it’s because nicer weather encourages year-round activity and moderate exercise is linked to lower prostate cancer rates.

Cancer Care, 2014

Men who are sexually active at least three times a week had up to 25% decreased risk compared to men who were less active. I won’t go into an official recommendation on this one.

Cancer Care, 2014

Have you heard about men who cycle? A study found that men who cycled 4 – 8 hours a week were 300% more likely to have prostate cancer. If they biked more than 8 ½ hours a week, their risk went up to 600%. Researchers explained that repetitive compression from a bicycle seat increases PSA levels and inflammation, two factors linked to prostate cancer. However, a more recent study quoted by many online cycling organizations implies that men who performed 25 minutes of high-intensity cycling each day were actually about 30% LESS likely to develop advanced prostate cancer and 25% of the men were less likely to develop fatal prostate cancer. But when I looked at the specific research, the vigorous exercises included cycling as well as swimming, outdoor work, and playing tennis. I think the take-home here is that excess weight is linked to aggressive prostate cancer diagnoses, so exercisers who keep weight down are decreasing their risk for more advanced cancer. I do think more studies just on cycling need to be conducted, however. For now, I recommend a variety of high-intensity workouts.

Eur Urol, 2019

Dietary Changes To Protect the Prostate

A systematic review of over 30 studies, some interventional and some observational, found that eating a plant-based diet made a huge difference for men at higher risk for prostate cancer. Not a single study found that there was an increased risk of prostate cancer in men who were vegetarian or vegan. And get this….for men with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, once they adopted a plant-based diet they powerfully improved their general health and prostate cancer outcomes. So, the first tip is: get more plants into your diet! This can be easier said than done, especially if you are a meat and potatoes kind of person….and that’s why at Cancer Nutrition IQ, we recommend taking daily plant powders along with making effort to eat more plants – because it’s so important to get those plants into your body, consistently!

Urol J, 2022

Eat 3 or more servings of vegetables every day – this amount will cut the risk of prostate cancer by 48%! – Cruciferous veggies, so broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage – these kinds of veggies provide the most protection. Not everyone is fond of cruciferous veggies, they can cause digestive upset. If excess gas is the main reason for avoiding crucifers, try taking digestive enzymes with them. This can improve tolerance dramatically so eating these sulfur-containing plants will not be missed.

J NCI, 2000

The same compiled research found that fruit offers no protection against prostate cancer, but…’s my second tip: don’t believe that only veggies are good for you –other research has found that fruit does impact risk! Now, If we get technical, tomatoes are a fruit…..and its estimated that 85% of our dietary intake of lycopene, the plant chemical that is protective against prostate cancer, is found in tomatoes and tomato products. You can also find smaller amounts in watermelon, guava – basically red and pink plants. And the research is clear: Higher lycopene consumption is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer. Have salsa on hand always as a quick snack – he’ll be sure to get more lycopene in that way!

Medicine, Aug 2015

My third tip involves another kind of vegetable – garlic! Garlic can speed up cell repair and stop cancer cells from multiplying. In a population-based case–control study in Shanghai, individuals consuming the most allium vegetables had a 53% decreased risk of prostate cancer compared to those with the lowest intake. It turns out, Garlic and scallions are the most powerful alliums over Chinese chives, leeks and onions. Scallions are so easy to grow and mix right into salads, stews, sauces, stir-fries – they are so versatile.

J NCI, 2002

Now you know what that favorite man is up against when it comes to prostate cancer risk AND most importantly – what kinds of foods can reduce his risk!  And if this doesn’t excite your man, scientists have found that the more plant-based foods are consumed, risk for erectile dysfunction decreases. So, whether you desire anti-aging, cancer prevention, or are actively fighting cancer, it’s time to grab your personalized nutrition plan.

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