New research shows vegan diets could reduce prostate cancer risk

Dr Mitrou talks of the World Cancer Research Fund’s aims, and how research they recently funded found that a vegan diet may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

There are over a million new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in men globally each year, this makes it the second most common cancer in men worldwide. If we are to see these numbers fall, prostate cancer prevention is key.

There are a variety of simple ways to help reduce cancer risk, for example maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

What do we know about diet and cancer?

 World Cancer Research Fund was the first organization to focus on the link between diet and cancer prevention. We have been funding and reviewing research in this area for nearly three decades, but only in recent years have others really started to take notice of the associations we have found.

Now that more people are acknowledging our cancer prevention message, those working in oncology and those in nutrition are slowly beginning to work together.

Our analysis of global research in our Continuous Update Project has found that eating a plant based diet (high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains), and being more physically active, decreases the risk of various cancers.

We also found that drinking more alcohol and eating processed and red meat can increase your risk of several cancers.

Vegan diets could reduce prostate cancer risk

One of our funded studies found a vegan diet could reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Scientists at Loma Linda University in California, USA looked at the eating patterns of over 26,000 men.

The results showed that men who were identified as following a vegan diet had a 35% reduced risk of prostate cancer.

The men were followed up for an average of around seven years to see the type of diet they followed and how many of them developed prostate cancer.

The results showed that men who were identified as following a vegan diet had a 35% reduced risk of prostate cancer.

What is particularly interesting about this study is that this is the first time a study has assessed the link between prostate cancer and various types of vegetarian diets, including pescatarian and vegan diets.

The focus on types of diets rather than individual food items is important as people eat foods in combination and not in isolation. This research has, for the first time, helped fill some vital gaps in our knowledge about vegetarian eating patterns and the prevention of prostate cancer.

How could a vegan diet reduce cancer risk?

Eating less/avoiding animal protein reduces levels of a growth factor called insulin-like growth factor 1, which could encourage the growth of cells that line the prostate.

There are potential explanations as to how a vegan diet could protect against prostate cancer. One of them is that eating less/avoiding animal protein reduces levels of a growth factor called insulin-like growth factor 1, which could encourage the growth of cells that line the prostate.

Vegans also consume large amounts of fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants and can reduce inflammation, which could subsequently play a key role in the development and progression of prostate cancer.

What next?

Although these results are exciting, what we now need is more studies in different populations to demonstrate the strength of the link between a vegan diet and reducing the risk of prostate cancer.

This research adds to our growing pool of knowledge on diet and cancer, bringing us closer to our goal to live in a world where no-one develops a preventable cancer.

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