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Can Red Meat Contribute to Prostate Cancer?

The relationship between red meat consumption and prostate cancer is a topic that researchers have studied, and while the evidence is not entirely conclusive, some studies suggest a potential association. Excess body fat, particularly around the waist, may influence hormonal levels, such as insulin and testosterone, which can impact prostate health.

According to the American Cancer Society:

  • Those who ate about 5 servings a week (1 serving is 3 ounces) of either red or processed meat, either before or after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, or both before and after, had a 10% to 20% higher risk of prematurely dying from all causes, mostly from causes other than prostate cancer.

  • Those who ate 1 more serving a day of red or processed meat have a 17% increased risk of dying from all causes and a 19% increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. This study did not support a link between eating red and/or processed meat with increased death specifically from prostate cancer.

  • Those who ate red and processed meat had no association with the progression of prostate cancer, which was consistent with earlier studies.

Red meat, mainly processed and high-fat cuts, can be high in saturated fats. Some studies have suggested that a diet high in saturated fats may be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Cooking red meat, especially at high temperatures (grilling, broiling, or frying), can lead to the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These compounds have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. While the evidence is not specific to prostate cancer, it suggests a potential mechanism for cancer risk associated with cooked meat.

There is evidence to suggest that a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet, may play a role in reducing the risk of prostate cancer and supporting overall prostate health. Additionally, for those diagnosed with prostate cancer, adopting a healthy lifestyle can be beneficial in managing the condition and improving the quality of life. Here are ways in which exercise and diet can contribute:

Regular physical activity is associated with a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Exercise may have protective effects by influencing hormonal levels, reducing inflammation, and supporting immune function.

For those already diagnosed with prostate cancer, regular exercise has been linked to improved outcomes. It can help manage treatment-related side effects, such as fatigue, and may positively impact overall well-being.

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides essential antioxidants that help combat oxidative stress. Antioxidants may play a role in reducing the risk of cancer.

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), flaxseeds, and walnuts, may have anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit prostate health.

Limiting the consumption of red and processed meats may be advisable. Choosing lean protein sources and incorporating plant-based proteins may be a healthier alternative.

Maintaining a healthy weight through a combination of diet and exercise is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer. Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

Staying well-hydrated is essential for overall health, including prostate health. Adequate fluid intake can support urinary function and may help reduce the risk of certain prostate conditions.

Regular health check-ups and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screenings can aid in the early detection of prostate cancer. Early detection allows for timely intervention and management.

Individualized recommendations, based on a person's health status, are crucial for developing a plan that best suits their needs. Health professionals can provide personalized advice and guidance, including urologists and nutritionists.


World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (WCRF/AICR) Continuous Update Project (CUP) on Prostate Cancer:

  • WCRF/AICR Continuous Update Project: Prostate Cancer

  • Koutros, S., Cross, A. J., Sandler, D. P., & Hoppin, J. A. (2008). Meat and meat mutagens and risk of prostate cancer in the Agricultural Health Study. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 17(1), 80-87. PubMed

  • Sinha, R., Park, Y., Graubard, B. I., Leitzmann, M. F., Hollenbeck, A., & Schatzkin, A. (2009). Meat and meat-related compounds and risk of prostate cancer in a large prospective cohort study in the United States. The American Journal of Epidemiology, 170(9), 1165-1177. PubMed

  • Cross, A. J., Peters, U., Kirsh, V. A., Andriole, G. L., Reding, D., Hayes, R. B., ... & Sinha, R. (2005). A prospective study of meat and meat mutagens and prostate cancer risk. Cancer Research, 65(24), 11779-11784. PubMed

  • Alexander, D. D., Mink, P. J., Adami, H. O., Cole, P., Mandel, J. S., & Oken, M. M. (2010). The non-Hodgkin lymphomas: a review of the epidemiologic literature. International Journal of Cancer, 120(S12), 1-39. PubMed

  • Aune, D., Navarro Rosenblatt, D. A., Chan, D. S., Vieira, A. R., Vieira, R., Greenwood, D. C., ... & Norat, T. (2015). Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 101(1), 87-117. PubMed

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