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Controlling Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

Movember is here and that means it is time to talk about men’s health!

Prostate cancer is among one of the most common cancers in men, currently ranked 2nd among all cancer deaths in men in western country (Vella, Malaguarnera, Lappano, Maggiolini, & Belfiore, 2017). This accounts for 3-5 deaths per 100 men each year (Carter, et al., 2013).  It is important for men to understand what they can do to improve their prostate health and ensure that they are decreasing controllable risk factors associated with increased prostate cancer development. One of the most common research supported controllable risk factors the intake of animal saturated fats.

Animal Fats and Prostate Cancer:

Men who consume most of their fat intake from animal saturated fat sources including: hot dogs, pork, and lunch meats, showed a higher incidence of prostate cancer (Hayes, et al., 1999). This stresses the importance of consuming healthy fats such as omega 3s and raw olive oil. When choosing animal protein sources, here are some strategies you can employ to decrease intake of animal saturated fats:

  1. Choose lean, high quality animal protein sources. Limit red meat intake to no more than a few times a month and choose lean cuts such as filet or round instead of T-bone and ribeye
  2. Remove skin from chicken and turkey.
  3. Be wary of lunch meats/sausages; these often contain many different types of cuts of meat, thickening agents and mystery ingredients.
  4. Eat fish 2-3 times per week. One serving of trout contains 88% less saturated fat compared to a lean cut of steak. Choose fish that are not high in heavy metals, such as trout and salmon.
  5. Avoid fried proteins. This will not only help decrease prostate risk but also help improve risk to your heart and circulatory system.

Does overexposure to heavy metals cause prostate cancer?

The answer to this question is that scientists are not certain. The evidence suggesting excess intake of several heavy metals such as copper, cadmium and arsenic may lead to increased prostate cancer is mixed.  Exposure to cadmium and prostate cancer risk has been implicated but with only observational studies done thus far, causation cannot be inferred. Exposure to cadmium for humans comes from in the form of cigarettes, nickel bacteries, soldering alloys, shellfish, and cadmium containing fertilizers (Vella, Malaguarnera, Lappano, Maggiolini, & Belfiore, 2017).  Cadmium toxicity in the prostate can result in cadmium molecules partially replacing zinc within the DNA damage repair machinery of the cell resulting in errors in cellular division potentially leading to cancer formation. High amounts of cadmium could displace zinc resulting in lower zinc levels within the prostate, potentially raising risk of prostate cancer formation.

The available evidence suggests that exposure to high levels of copper may lead to increased risk but it is important to remind readers that when zinc levels in the body drop, copper tends to rise. Low levels of zinc intake has been proposed to raise risk of prostate cancer but studies are contradictory (Vella, Malaguarnera, Lappano, Maggiolini, & Belfiore, 2017).  Zinc is found to accumulate in the prostate and helps with several different aspects of male reproductive health. Zinc concentration has been found to be low in prostate cancer and males with benign prostatic hyperplasia. Zinc and copper live in balance with each other, high amounts of copper can drive zinc levels down and vice versa (Groff & Gropper, 1999).

More research is clearly needed to better understand the association between heavy metal exposure and prostate cancer risk.


Unfortunately, there are several factors that increase the risk of prostate cancer. These include: increasing age and having a first degree relative with prostate cancer such as brother, father, or uncle (Hayes, et al., 1999). African-American males also have a notable increase in prostate cancer risk, with screening recommended as early as 40 years old if a first degree relative was diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 65 (Carter, et al., 2013).  Be sure to speak to your doctor to discuss your individual risk profile and when you should begin prostate screening.

Works Cited

Carter, H. B., Albertsen, P. C., Barry, M. J., Etzioni, R., Freedland, S. J., Greene, K. L., et al. (2013). Early Detection of Prostate Cancer: AUA guideline. The Journal Of Urology, 190, 419-426.

Groff, J. L., & Gropper, S. S. (1999). In J. L. Groff, & S. S. Gropper, Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism (pp. 245-303). Wadsworth Thomson Learning.

Hayes, R. B., Ziegler, G. G., Swanson, C., Greenberg, R. S., Marie, S. G., Schoenberg, J. B., et al. (1999). Dietary Factors and Risk for Prostate Cancer among Blacks and Whites in the United States. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 8, 25-34.

Vella, V., Malaguarnera, R., Lappano, R., Maggiolini, M., & Belfiore, A. (2017, December). Recent views of heavy metals as possible risk factors and potential preventative and therapeutic agent in prostate cancer. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, 457, 57-72.

Dr. Aaron Zadek, ND

About The Author

Dr. Aaron Zadek, BSc, ND, CISSN is a medical advisor for Advanced Orthomolecular Research. Dr. Zadek has a strong passion for sports medicine. He uses an evidence-based approach to provide individualized sports therapy and nutrition to optimize performance. He has experience working with professional and amateur athletes to help them achieve their performance goals. Aaron also travels as an onsite therapist and nutritionist for professional athletes; supervising their physical and mental preparation for competition, weight management, post-competition injury assessment, and therapy. Concussion management is an important part of Dr. Zadek`s practice. He emphasizes the importance of proper baseline testing before and after impact along with safe return to sport, work, and school protocols.

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