In my previous post, I talked briefly about the impact of one treatment option for prostate cancer (surgery) and two of its most unwanted complications (impotence and incontinence). Such complications might be worth it if the surgery was truly life-saving, but as we observed, prostate cancer isn’t like other cancers in that although some tumours are aggressive, most don’t cause any symptoms at all and men can survive perfectly well without any treatment at all, including surgery.
This brings me on to another conventional treatment option for cancer patients, chemotherapy. A literature review on clinical trials conducted in Australia and the US reporting a 5-year survival benefit attributed solely to cytotoxic chemotherapy in 22 adult malignancies, including cancer of the colon, pancreas, lungs, breast, cervix, prostate, kidneys and others between 1990-2004 concluded that ‘The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA. As the 5-year relative survival rate for cancer in Australia is now over 60%, it is clear that cytotoxic chemotherapy only makes a minor contribution to cancer survival’. So, chemotherpy doesn’t appear to be a good option either bearing in mind the poor survival rates and horrendous side-effects.
What about radiation treatment? Two types of radiation therapy are given to prostate cancer patients: External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT) where beams of radiation are focused on the prostate gland from a machine outside of the body and Brachytherapy (internal radiation) in which small radioactive pellets are placed directly into the prostate. According to the American Cancer Society, the possible side-effects of EBRT can be the same as surgery and include bowel, urinary and erection problems, fatigue and lymphedema which causes swelling and pain in the legs or genital area. Patients receiving Brachytherapy treatment can also suffer from bowel, urinary and erection problems. However, Radiation Oncology in Australia and New Zealand report that their 8-year study on the effectiveness of EBRT showed a 95.5% cure rate for intermediate-risk prostate cancer and a 91.3% for high-risk prostate cancer where the cancer was localised. Radiation treatment, then, might be something you opt for despite the complications.
Let’s look at the natural approach to dealing with prostate cancer which, of course, has no side-effects!
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are rich in two phytochemicals; 3,3′-dindolylmethane (DIM), known to inhibit an enzyme involved in cancer cell growth as well as promoting cancer cell death, and indole-3-carbinol (I3C) which performs the same functions as DIM, but also prevents cellular DNA damage, a main cause of cancer.
- Cayenne peppers are a good source of capsaicin (a compound responsible for the pungency of peppers) which, according to studies from both the University of California medical school and in Spain, showed that capsaicin inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells.
- Salmon, tuna and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. A New Zealand study found that eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid might be associated with a lower risk of developing prostate cancer and, although findings of similar studies came to conflicting conclusions, oily fish are certainly regarded as part of a healthy diet. Cod is very high in the essential mineral, iodine (99mpg in just 3oz) which is responsible for balancing the body’s hormonal and endocrine system (thyroid gland, pancreas, breasts, ovaries, uterus and prostate). Iodine is vital for a strong immune system with its powerful anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-viral and anti-cancer properties.
- Red grapes contain large quantities of resveratrol in their skins as well as other nutrients including manganese, potassium and vitamins K, C and B1. Many studies have shown that resveratrol can slow prostate cancer progression, protect DNA, and fight inflammation and free radicals (i.e. harmful molecules arising from inside our bodies through normal physiological processes like aerobic respiration, metabolism and outside our bodies from smoking, alcohol consumption etc.).
- Pomegranates contain ellagic acid, luteolin and punicic acid which have shown good results in inhibiting the growth and metastasis of prostate cancer. Pomegranate juice has a high sugar content and so should be drunk in moderation as cancer does thrive in a glucose-rich environment. Therefore, extracts might be more preferable, especially for diabetics.
- Apples contain high amounts of the flavonoid compound, quercetin, and so fights free radical damage. As both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, quercetin displays anti-cancer properties. A study conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine showed a link between a diet rich in quercetin (as well as other antioxidants), and a lowered risk of cancer.
- The spice, turmeric, contains the compound curcumin. Turmeric is very popular in India both when used as a spice in cooking and for the health benefits derived from the 2%-5% of curcumin located in its root. Curcumin is well-known for stopping pain and inflammation, and is currently being studied for inhibiting tumours and fighting cancer. An article on PubMed Central, the US National Library of Medicine’s digital archive, entitled ‘Therapeutic Roles Of Curcumin: Lessons Learned From Clinical Trials’ discusses the huge number of human clinical trials over the past 25 years on the positive effect of curcumin and states: “Some promising effects have been observed in patients with various pro-inflammatory diseases including cancer … curcumin, either alone or in combination with other agents, has demonstrated potential against colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, lung cancer, oral cancer, and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.” Since quite small amounts of curcumin are found in the powdered form of ground turmeric, curcumin extracts would be the best way to go in order to get the maximum health benefit.
- Polyphenols are compounds found in plants which greatly benefit the human body and help fight disease, and Green tea contains the polyphenol, catechins. One trial revealed that men who had pre-malignant prostate lesions and who took 200mg of green tea catechins three times daily for a year had a 90% success rate in preventing the development of prostate cancer. The primary catechin in green tea is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) and in order to ensure you get enough of it, your green tea should be a high quality loose leaf variety from China or Japan, or matcha green tea powder or capsules.
- Ensure you get enough vitamin D, either through foods high in this vitamin (e.g. egg yolks, fortified tofu, oily fish etc.), good old sunlight (half an hour in the sun provides all of your vitamin D requirements for the day) or supplements. Vitamin D impacts on at least 200 human genes which are involved in regulating cellular proliferation, development and death, and a number of studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D have a direct effect on the risk of cancer.
- Active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) is a nutritional supplement, developed in Japan, and produced from shiitake mushrooms. It has been shown to impact on prostate cancer. Cancer Research UK also states that, ‘One shiitake extract called lentinan is a beta glucan. This is a type of complex sugar compound. Beta glucan is believed to stimulate the immune system and trigger certain cells and proteins in the body to attack cancer cells. In laboratory studies, it seems to slow the growth of some cancer cells’.