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Dr Russ Blog - Diet as treatment for low-risk prostate cancer?
Diet as treatment for low-risk prostate cancer?
Created on 10/10/2008

Many experts believe that eating a healthy diet and exercising can help prevent certain forms of cancer. Interestingly, researchers are now focusing on the use of dietary and lifestyle changes to help treat certain cancers.

As an example, Dr. Dean Ornish' group recently published the results of a 3-month pilot trial (no, it didn't focus on airline pilots!) that involved 30 men averaging 62 years of age with low-risk prostate cancer who had not had surgery, radiation therapy or hormone therapy. The men were asked to eat mainly low-fat whole foods with an emphasis on vegetables and fruit, to participate regularly in stress management activities and group support, and to exercise. They also agreed to have needle biopsies of their prostate glands performed when the trial began and at the end of 3 months to assess the program's impact on genes affecting the prostate.

At the end of the trial, the research team found that the activity of genes associated with cancer cell growth was decreased. There were additional health benefits, too, including a lowering of blood pressure and decreased body mass index (BMI).

Pilot trials like this are often the first step in testing a hypothesis and typically include only a relatively small number of participants, which is why the results can't yet be fully trusted. In addition, it's important to keep in mind that this study focused on men with early, low-risk prostate cancer, and in no way suggests that men with advanced prostate cancer forego conventional medical treatment.

The study conclusions do, however, point to the need for further research to help answer the question of whether dietary and lifestyle changes should be considered important parts of the therapetic plan for treatment of prostate cancer. In addition, it will be important to know if the findings apply to men with more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, and whether benefits could be expected for all men, or only those with specific genetic makeups.

Existing data strongly suggest that following a similar Ornish-style wellness program can help lessen risk factors for heart disease. Studies on the human genome and the role of specific genes in health and illness seem to be coming out every day, too. Combining dietary and lifestyle interventions with measures of genetic activity all in one study helps determine not only if these interventions are helpful, but also how.

While we await further study, there is already enough evidence to support following a healthy diet (like a Mediterranean-style diet), exercising on most days of the week, staying social, and engaging in healthy stress management to help keep us healthy. So be good to your self, and stay tuned to this blog for more information on how you and your loved ones can be (and stay) well.

Be well.
Dr. Russ

** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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