Can the Mediterranean diet prevent prostate cancer?



Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide. Despite the global importance of this cancer, until recently little was known about risk factors apart from the well-established factors: age, family history and country of birth. The large worldwide variation in prostate cancer risk and increased risk in migrants moving from low to high risk countries provides strong support for modifiable environmental factors. We have based our review on the findings of a systematic review undertaken by an expert panel on behalf of the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, and new data since then, linking identified foods and nutrients with prostate cancer. Evidence indicates that foods containing lycopene, as well as selenium and foods containing it, probably protect against prostate cancer, and excess consumption of foods or supplements containing calcium are a probable cause of this cancer. The expert panel also concluded that it is unlikely that β-carotene (whether from foods or supplements) has a substantial effect on the risk of this cancer. A recent review on environmental factors in human prostate cancer also found that there were protective effects of vitamin E, pulses, soy foods and high plasma 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels. The Mediterranean diet is abundant in foods that may protect against prostate cancer and is associated with longevity and reduced cardiovascular and cancer mortality. Compared with many Western countries Greece has lower prostate cancer mortality and Greek migrant men in Australia have retained their low risk for prostate cancer. Consumption of a traditional Mediterranean diet, rich in bioactive nutrients, may confer protection to Greek migrant men, and this dietary pattern offers a palatable alternative for prevention of this disease.