Prostate Cancer: A Growing Disease In Men
Adapted from Dr. Fuhrman's book Disease Proof Your Child:
The studies examining the link between obesity, body size, and prostate cancer have focused on adult Body Mass Index (BMI). The results of these studies have not been conclusive; some studies have found a direct relationship and others have not.1 When looking carefully at tallness versus obesity, there is an apparent link between prostate cancer and height, but not with obesity. This is probably because extra fat on the body results in a higher estrogen/progesterone ratio, and it is the higher testosterone/estrogen ration that promotes prostate cancer. Therefore, the earlier attainment of adult height is more closely related to prostate cancer risk, not merely being overweight. Men over seventy-one inches tall were observed to have a 32 percent increased risk of prostate cancer. The conclusion is that the dietary style that is most growth promoting also promotes a higher level of testosterone in childhood that is linked to later-life prostate cancer.2
It takes at least one generation for men in immigrant families coming to America to assume the cancer risks of their host country, suggesting the importance of early-life factors.3 Similar to early puberty in females, earlier attainment of adult height and early onset of beard growth in males is a marker of increased risk of prostate cancer.4 Men's diets as toddlers and children most powerfully affect the age when they mature and develop facial hair. The prostate gland is essentially a dormant organ until puberty (much like the female breast), when heightened testosterone levels stimulate its development.
The data on prostate cancer causation points to higher testosterone levels beginning at an earlier age in childhood and throughout puberty as having a strong effect on later occurrence of aggressiveness of prostate cancer.5 Furthermore, studies demonstrate that prostate intraepithelial neoplasia, a cancer precursor to lesion, is already common in men in their twenties and thirties, suggesting that the process of carcinogenesis begins early.6
Prostate cancer is the male version of breast cancer. The genetic predisposition is illustrated by the fact that families with a strong history of breast cancer have an increased risk of prostate cancer in their male offspring and vice versa. So the early nutritional environment we grow our children in creates the favorable soil to fuel the breast cancer and prostate epidemics. The same dietary factors that heighten estrogen levels in females raise testosterone levels in males.
When the death rates for prostate cancer and testicular cancer were examined in forty-two countries and correlated with dietary practices in a carefully designed study, they found that cheese consumption was most closely linked with the incidence of testicular cancer for ages twenty to thirty-nine, and milk was the most closely associated with prostate cancer of all foods.7 Meat, coffee, and animal fats also showed a positive correlation.
1. La Vecchia C, Negri E, Parazzini F, et al. Height and cancer risk in network of case-controlled studies from Northern Italy. Int J Cancer 1990;45;275-279.
2. Brunk D. Large study links height to higher risk of prostate cancer. Family Practice News, May 1 2003;34.
3. Haenzel W, Kurihara M. Studies of Japanese migrants. Mortality from cancer and other diseases among Japanese in the United States. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1968;40:43-68.
4. Anderson SO, Baron J, Wolk A, et al. Early life risk factors for prostate cancer: a population-based case-control study in Sweden. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 1995;4:187-192.
5. Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, et al. Height, body weight, and risk of prostate cancer. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 1997;6;557-563.
6. Sakr WA, Hass GP, Cassin BF, et al. The frequency of carcinoma and intraepithelial neoplasia of the prostate in young male patients. J Urol 1993;150:379-385. Cheville JC, Bostwick DG. Postatrophic hyperplasia of the prostate. A Histrological mimic of prostatic adenocarcinoma. Am J Surg Pathol 1995;19:1068-1076.
7. Ganmaa D, Li XM, Wang J, et al. Incidence and mortality of testicular and prostatic cancers in relation to world dietary practices. Int J Cancer 2002;98(2):262-267.