the impact of diet on prostate cancer hdr 1

Unravelling the Link Between Diet and Prostate Cancer: Insights from a Recent Study

Prostate cancer is a significant global health concern. It is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide and the second most diagnosed cancer in men. While certain factors like race, age, and family history are known to influence prostate cancer risk, the role of modifiable factors such as diet has been unclear. However, a recent study aimed to shed light on this topic by investigating the association between “a posteriori” dietary patterns and Prostate cancer risk.

“A posteriori” is a Latin term that translates to “from the effect to the cause.” In the context of this study, it refers to the approach used to identify dietary patterns based on observed data. A posteriori dietary patterns are derived from the dietary information collected from the study participants, without predefining specific food groups or nutrient components. These patterns are created using statistical methods that analyse the actual dietary habits of the population under study. By examining the observed dietary intake and identifying patterns within the data, researchers can draw associations between certain dietary patterns and health outcomes, such as the risk of prostate cancer.

The study used data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Spanish cohort (EPIC-Spain), which included 15,296 men aged 29-69 years. Information on lifestyle, diet, and medical history was collected through questionnaires and standardised measurements. 181 men were excluded from the study for what was deemed “implausible” food intake!

Three dietary patterns emerged from the analysis: Western, Prudent, and Mediterranean. The Western pattern involved a high consumption of high-fat dairy products, processed meat, refined grains, sweets, caloric drinks, convenience food, and sauces. The Prudent pattern consisted of high intakes of low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and juices. The Mediterranean pattern represented high intakes of fish, vegetables, legumes, boiled potatoes, fruits, olives, and vegetable oil, with a low intake of juices. 

The findings of the study revealed that high adherence to the Western dietary pattern was associated with a considerable increase in the risk of aggressive prostate. On the other hand, high adherence to the Prudent and Mediterranean patterns did not show significant effects on Prostate cancer risk.

The Western dietary pattern, characterised by its consumption of dairy products, red and processed meats, sweets, convenience food, and snacks, was found to have detrimental effects on Prostate cancer risk. These foods contain compounds that disrupt prostate hormonal regulation, increase oxidative stress, and stimulate inflammation, all of which can contribute to the development and progression of prostate cancer.

Interestingly, the study did not find a strong protective effect of the Mediterranean or Prudent dietary pattern against aggressive prostate cancer. Differences in dietary habits between study populations and changes in dietary patterns over time may explain these discrepancies. Further research is certainly needed to validate these findings, as the number of cohort studies on this topic is still limited.

The study’s strengths lie in its longitudinal design, large sample size, and the use of a posteriori dietary patterns. These patterns provide a comprehensive understanding of the overall diet and its impact on prostate cancer risk, accounting for the interactions between different foods and nutrients.

However, the study does have limitations. It was unable to track changes in diet over time, and information on family history of prostate cancer or race was not available. Nonetheless, the study adds to our knowledge about the association between dietary patterns and Prostate cancer risk, emphasising the importance of reducing the consumption of high-fat dairy products, red and processed meats, refined grains, sweets, caloric drinks, convenience food, and sauces to prevent prostate cancer.

The study suggests that adherence to a Western dietary pattern increases the risk of aggressive prostate cancer, while high adherence to the Prudent and Mediterranean patterns does not significantly impact prostate cancer risk. These findings highlight the need for individuals to make healthier dietary choices by reducing the intake of detrimental foods and focusing on a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. However, further research is needed to confirm these findings and deepen our understanding of the complex relationship between diet and prostate cancer.


Dr J Hugh Coyne 

Private GP 

Parsons Green, Fulham