Prostate cancer: How to reduce the risk of developing the world's most common cancer in men including more wine, sex and sunbathing

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
A leading prostate cancer expert and professor of nutrition and exercise science explains how, why and which lifestyle factors could slash the chances of developing prostate cancer (CaP) — the world’s most common cancer in men

Although some men have an increased cancer risk solely due to being tall or inheritance of certain genes, available data show that about 50 per cent of prostate cancer (CaP) cases could be preventable by lifestyle factors, which are not all hard work. In fact, some activities such as sunbathing, drinking red wine, and having sex can be rather pleasant.

Sunbathing in moderation, without burning, is the best way to increase vitamin D levels, which regulate several pathways affecting cancer, including hormone regulation, inflammation, and immunity. A recent study showed that for every 20 nmol/L drop in vitamin D below normal, there’s a 10% increased risk of CaP. Going on a winter holiday is a good way to top up levels; otherwise, vitamin D supplementation, especially if combined with a probiotic that enhances its effect, is a sensible alternative. A combination of lactobacillus and vitamin D is being tested in the latest nutritional intervention study.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Having more sex or, more specifically, 21 or more orgasms a month, has been shown to reduce CaP risk by 31% compared to men who report having 4–7 ejaculations per month.

A few glasses of red wine a week has been linked to better gut health and a lower risk of CaP, probably due to its high concentration of a phytochemical called resveratrol. It must be noted, however, that consuming more than two drinks a day increases the risk of bowel cancer, and any amount of alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.

Regular exercise for about two-and-a-half to three hours a week and avoiding long periods of sitting have been linked to a 30% lower risk of CaP. Any exercise which increases heart and breathing rates is good but it’s important to find an activity which is enjoyable, hence sustainable, including running, brisk walking and even cycling.

Eating more fruit, cruciferous vegetables, and spices also increases the intake of healthy phytochemicals, which protect individuals from cancer by reducing excess inflammation, encouraging the production of antioxidant enzymes, improving gut flora, and possessing direct anti-prostate cancer properties. In 2013, a blend of pomegranate, broccoli, green tea, and turmeric was found to slow the progression of CaP. In 2024, the world’s largest nutritional intervention study for CaP builds on this data by boosting phytochemical levels using targeted extracts and adding other foods such as cranberry and ginger, which enhance the absorption of phytochemicals. These studies show us that we should aim to include ample amounts of these foods in every meal of the day, but the UK diet is often deficient in them. In such cases, a nutritional capsule such as Yourphyto, selected for the latest study, can be a convenient strategy to boost intake for many.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Reducing meat and particularly processed meat intake such as grilled sausages, bacon, sliced ham and tinned meats will reduce the risk by 20% compared to low or no meat eaters. Processed meats contain nitrites, toxic nitrosamines, heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which increase inflammation and directly damage DNA, causing cancerous mutations.

Poor gut health has been linked with a higher risk of many cancers including CaP via increased systemic inflammation which causes cells to grow abnormally fast. More rapidly dividing cells are more likely to develop spontaneous mutations of DNA and have less time for them to repair themselves. On top of this, a stressed immune system lowers the chances that immune cells will recognise early cancer cells and kill them. Factors which affect gut health include exercise, processed sugar, smoking, obesity and stress. As mentioned above, a combination of lactobacillus and vitamin D is being currently being tested in the latest CaP intervention study.

Processed sugar, especially in drinks, increases the risks of many diseases including CaP and adding sugar to tea or coffee negates their otherwise protective benefits.

Smoking causes many cancers and increases the risk of aggressive CaP which grow faster and are harder to cure.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of CaP but, like smokers, it is linked to more fatal high risk disease. The combination of abdominal obesity raised sugar, fats, blood pressure and inflammation, a condition called metabolic syndrome, is particularly harmful.

Eating more nuts reduces the risk of CaP but more importantly it reduces the risk of death by 31% because nut eaters develop slower-growing more curable disease.

Cleaning teeth reduces chronic inflammation in the gums, a strong driver of cancer cell growth. Studies show that men with poor teeth hygiene have higher benign prostate hyperplasia and cancer.

Be careful of vitamin E supplements as unlike natural phytochemicals from plants, vitamin E is a direct anti-oxidant that can actually override and harm these defence processes. The SELECT and CARET studies, which gave Vitamin E to participants, both showed an increased risk of CaP . There are concerns with extracts of herbs such as cloves and spearmint which could affect androgen levels in a negative way.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Eating more unfermented soy products such as soy milk, tofu and edamame has been linked to a reduced risk of CaP. Interestingly, fermented soya products such as miso and tempeh, which are known to help reduce many other chronic diseases, have not been shown to help CaP. Concentrated soy extract in supplements cause hormonal changes which could increase CaP progression.

Eating oily fish 2-3 times a week has been linked to a lower CaP risk probably due to its omega 3 and mineral content but the evidence from two large studies suggests that it may be better to steer clear of fish oil supplements. Their negative effect more likely relates to excess vitamin E intake which is used as a preservative. Omega 3 can also be derived from flax and chia seeds and avocados and non-fish supplements made from algae.

High intake of dairy products have been linked to a slightly higher risk but this may be related to their fattening effects. Certainly low quantities, such as in tea, carry very little or no risk as do fermented cheeses and yogurt provided individuals do not have lactose intolerance.

In conclusion, although we cannot yet prescribe, red wine, sex and winter holidays on the NHS, men can empower themselves to significantly reduced their odds of developing CaP. There is not just one magic habit which reduces the risk of prostate cancer but combination of several factors working together over a long period of time so the earlier men start the better.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.