Introduction: *Cancer typically develops as a result of genetic, environmental and/or lifestyle factors. Although many types of cancer are still not easily preventable, there are steps you can take to adjust your lifestyle and perhaps reduce the risk. Certain cancers, including prostate and breast cancer, affect a very large part of the population, but do not necessarily occur due to one obvious lifestyle factor. There is a strong body of evidence that demonstrates to help prevent these cancers, it is important to pay attention to the foods you are putting into your body on a daily basis.
Prostate cancer is a fairly common diagnosis for older men (age 40 and older), accounting for a surprising 27% of all cancer cases. 80% of those prostate cancer cases occur in men over the age of 65. Prostate cancer may develop for a number of reasons, but it is also affected by your dietary lifestyle. There is research that many foods are a preventive in the development of cancer, while others put you at an increased risk. The most important factor in controlling prostate growth is maintaining healthy testosterone levels, which directly influence prostate growth. Luckily, many nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables contain components that will assist in keeping your hormones balanced and may prevent cancer with free-radical fighting antioxidants.
Similarly, breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women, making it the most common diagnosis for women after skin cancer. Many men are surprised to know that they can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is significantly lower than a woman’s–1 in 1,000–but it can still be a very serious and potentially life threatening diagnosis. Although no one food nor a menu of foods can prevent breast cancer, nutrition has been shown to be an essential component for preventing breast cancer, and certain foods provide important cancer-fighting nutrients.
What follows is information on nutrition and exercise for cancer based preventative measures.
Red Meat In Moderation:
A staple in many diets is red meat, especially while traveling (easily available, quick to prepare, etc.) Red meat, however, is one of the worst offenders: eating red meat on a daily basis has been found to triple the risk of prostate enlargement. Processed, charred or smoked meats pose a large risk for breast cancer, as well as many other cancers, and should be mostly avoided to reduce risk. Frequent consumption of milk and other dairy products has also been linked to an increased risk in prostate cancer. In addition, it is important to avoid trans fats (found in red meat) and limit saturated fats. One study found that women who had the highest levels of trans fats in their blood were twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those who had the lowest levels.
Bottom Line – Reduce your intake of red meat to 18 ounces per week.
Eat Your Fruits And Veggies:
One of the major risk factors for many cancers (especially prostate cancer) is not consuming enough vegetables and fruits. Certain fruits and vegetables pack more cancer-fighting punch than others, but it is important to consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. As a general rule, aim for 5 or more servings per day.
Foods To Focus On:
One of the most important nutrients for prostate health is lycopene, a carotenoid that provides the bright red color for tomatoes, grapefruit and watermelon. A study from Harvard University showed that men who consumed a mere two servings of tomato sauce a week had 23 percent less risk of developing prostate cancer, compared to men who rarely consumed tomato products. Even better, men who consumed 10 or more servings of tomato products per week (think spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and even ketchup) reduced their risk by 35 percent. Cooked tomatoes actually increase the absorption of lycopene.
The best sources of lycopene include tomatoes (cooked and raw), watermelon, grapefruit, sweet red peppers (cooked), papaya, mango, carrots, and asparagus (cooked).
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, are also said to be highly beneficial for the prevention of prostate and breast cancer, due to their high levels of phytochemicals (powerful, cancer-fighting plant chemicals). (Try roasting broccoli and cauliflower with olive oil and sea salt for a tasty side dish or add them raw into a large, colorful salad.)
Bottom Line – Won’t eat your veggies…NO DESSERT!!
Nutrition isn’t the only important factor in a cancer prevention strategy: physical exercise also plays a key role in the prevention of prostate and breast cancer, (as well as a number of other illnesses.) Studies have found that men who stay active and fit on a daily basis have a slightly lower risk of developing prostate problems. Similarly, one of the most important factors for preventing breast cancer in both men and women is maintaining a healthy body weight for your height and frame.
Bottom Line – Don’t skip your weekly workouts.
5 Tips on Eating Well For Cancer Prevention:
1) Limit your daily intake of red meat and decrease the amount of processed meats in your diet such as bacon, sausage and processed cold cuts high in sodium and nitrates.
2) Incorporate more lycopene into your diet by choosing tomato based sauces, vegetarian tomato based chili and adding tomatoes to your salads.
3) Focus on incorporating a variety of vegetables into your diet this month. Experiment with sweet red peppers, carrots, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and spinach. You can specify these vegetable options on your menus on the road and in your hotels.
4) Aim to eat at least 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables (A serving is 1 cup of raw or ½ cup of cooked veggies). Add them into your omelets, on top of your sandwich or wrap and always make sure you have veggies at dinnertime.
5) Experiment with cold pressed juices and smoothies at the growing number of local juice bars or your team commissary. The veggies mentioned above could all be combined into a juice or smoothie for optimal nutrition. Be sure your juice is made from real fruit and not fruit juice concentrate, and does not contain any added sugars.
Any questions or comments please feel free to contact your Team Physician or the NBA Coaches Association.
 Araki H, Watanabe H, Mishina T, Nakao M. High-risk group for benign prostatic hypertrophy. Prostate 1983;4:253-64.
 Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Ma J, Gann PH, Gaziano JM, Giovannucci E. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians’ Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2001;74:549-54.
 Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Liu Y, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. A prospective study of tomato products, lycopene, and prostate cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst 2002;94:391-8.