There’s no magic bullet when it comes to preventing prostate cancer. This week, the Journal of the American Medical Association shares news that taking large doses of Vitamin E supplements on a regular basis may actually cause prostate cancer, not prevent it as once believed.
The findings come out of a study that began ten years ago and included 35,000 men aged 58-68. The data clearly indicated a 17% increase in prostate cancer among those taking 400 IU/day of vitamin E over a five-year period. In 2008, seven years into the study, they released data stating that vitamin E did not prove to prevent prostate cancer. Today’s news that it may actually cause it is staggering to many.
In truth, it is difficult to say from just one study whether or not prostate cancer is caused by an increased consumption of vitamin E. The more important lesson is that vitamin supplements are not the quick answer to our medical woes.
Preventing prostate cancer should really be about getting back to the basics.
If you’re a relatively healthy man who exercises regularly, plays some sports, stays active around the house, is on the go with your family, then you’re taking the first step.
If you can manage to keep up with a healthful diet that includes a wide range of foods, heavier on the fruits and veggies (particularly the colorful ones like tomatoes and broccoli), a little lighter on the red meat, then you’re establishing a strong foundation. For most men, a well-rounded diet eliminates the need for vitamin supplements.
In terms of prostate cancer, it’s important to be aware of your risk factors. Did your father or grandfather have prostate cancer? An uncle or brother? Are you African American? These are check boxes that do put you at greater risk for developing prostate cancer and should be discussed with your doctor.
So what else can you do to prevent prostate cancer?
Well, the honest answer is that you can’t prevent it completely. What you can do is be vigilant about your prostate and your overall health. Annual PSA screenings do work, particularly for those with the risk factors I just mentioned. When you get your PSA blood test each year your doctor is adding valuable data to your prostate road map. As a man ages, his prostate changes and naturally enlarges. Without a baseline, fluctuations in your PSA level cannot be accurately assessed. What comes of those numbers is your PSA velocity and that’s where significant changes can indicate prostate cancer.
The bottom line is that the media, health fanatics and even celebrities can sometimes lead us astray with the latest fads and trends in wellness and the purported benefits of supplements. Don’t allow yourself to focus on any one magic way to prevent cancer. Healthy habits are the best course of action for maintaining overall wellness and prostate health.
If you are currently taking vitamin E or a supplement that contains vitamin E, particularly in doses of 400 IU/day, consult your physician.