Men who follow a Mediterranean diet — rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, boiled potatoes, olives, and vegetable oil — have a lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer, a Spanish study shows.
The findings, suggesting that a Mediterranean diet may have a protective effect in the development of aggressive prostate cancer, were published in the Journal of Urology. The study was titled “Mediterranean Dietary Pattern is Associated with Low Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer: MCC-Spain Study.“
Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer in men worldwide. Although its cause remains unknown, some studies have suggested that it is associated with a Western lifestyle.
The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research recommend a healthy diet, along with the maintenance of a healthy weight and regular physical activity, to reduce the risk of cancer.
While diet has been suggested as a risk factor for almost all types of cancer, few dietary factors have been firmly connected with cancer.
Recently, a clear association of Mediterranean diet with lower risk of breast cancer was reported. However, to date, studies linking dietary factors and the risk of prostate cancer have produced inconsistent results.
A new Spanish study investigated the association of three types of diet with risk of prostate cancer as a part of the MCC-Spain, a large-scale, multi-center study that evaluates environmental exposures and genetic factors in five common tumors in Spain.
The team analyzed data from 733 patients with histologically confirmed prostate cancer, and 1,229 healthy men. The participants’ mean age was 66 years and they were from seven provinces located throughout Spain.
Socio-demographic and lifestyle factors, medical history and anthropometric (body measurement) data were collected. Diet information was assessed through a modified 154-item Food Frequency Questionnaire.
The team evaluated the men’s adherence to three previously defined types of diet: Western, Prudent, and Mediterranean.
The Western diet includes elevated consumption of high-fat dairy products, processed meat, refined grains, caloric drinks, sweets, fast food, and sauces. The Prudent dietary pattern involves high intake of low-fat dairy, vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and juices. The Mediterranean diet consists of high consumption of fish, vegetables, boiled potatoes, legumes, olives, fruits and vegetable oil, and low intake of juices.
No overall difference in dietary patterns was found between healthy men and prostate cancer patients. However, patients had lower education, higher physical activity and alcohol consumption, and more relatives with prostate cancer, compared to healthy participants.
When comparing the degree of adherence to diet and tumor aggressiveness, researchers found an association between high adherence to Mediterranean diet and lower risk of aggressive and advanced prostate cancer.
No significant association was found between Western and Prudent diets and tumor aggressiveness.
“Prevention of aggressive tumors in the prostate should probably include important elements of the Mediterranean diet such as fish, legumes, and olive oil, and suggest that a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains might not be enough,” Beatriz Perez-Gomez, PhD and the study’s lead investigator, said in a press release.
Thus, the team noted that dietary recommendations for prostate cancer prevention “should consider whole dietary patterns instead of individual foods.”
Adela Castelló, PhD and co-author of the study, added that if these results are confirmed in further studies, the adoption of a Mediterranean diet might not only reduce the risk of advanced prostate cancer, but also of “other prevalent health problems in men such as cardiovascular disease.”