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Prostate cancer prevention

By Flavia Nassaka

More sex partners or diet?

A recently released study which claims that men who have many women partners less likely to develop prostate cancer, has renewed interest in the disease.

The Prostate Cancer & Environment Study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology involved 1590 men. It reported that men who have sex with more than 20 women during the course of their lifetimes are less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer forms in tissues of the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system found below the bladder and in front of the rectum.  It usually occurs in older men. Common symptoms of prostate cancer include pain while passing urine, painful ejaculation, a dribble of urine despite urgent need and low back pain.

Statistics at the Uganda Cancer Institute indicate that every year more than 1500 patients are diagnosed with cancer of the prostate glands.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men. It is thought that virtually all men with circulating androgens (hormones) will develop microscopic prostate cancer if they live long enough but in Uganda more focus in terms of awareness has been directed to breast and cervical cancer. As a result many men never know they have the cancer until it’s too late to reverse.


Dr Fred Okuku, a consultant Oncologist at the Uganda Cancer Institute says prostate cancer is found in 50% of men older than 60 and nearly all men over 90. Some start developing signs at as early as 50 years.

Instead of focusing on finding more sex partners as a prostate cancer preventive measure, Dr Okuku says there are natural remedies that can reduce one’s chances of catching the disease and reduce progress for those who are already cancerous. He cites high intake of vegetables and fruits.

“Those who eat a vegetarian diet have the lowest rates of prostate cancer. One possible explanation is the low fat content. Another is that certain nutrients in vegetables may help reduce the cancer risk”, he explains adding that some fruits and vegetables like tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene which retards the growth of prostate tumors.

James Kafeero, an expert on tumors recommends eating garlic, onions, chicken, sea food, sunflower seeds and whole grain to reduce the risk of cancer because all these foods are rich in selenium in fact, selenium is one of the reasons that these particular foods are a recommended for a healthy diet.

Men are encouraged to take more antioxidants such as vitamin C and E and selenium. Studies have showed that patients receiving foods rich in selenium have over 60% decrease in prostate cancer, 50% decrease in colon or rectal cancer and 45% decrease in lung cancer.

He says water melon seeds contain a plenty of zinc which repairs and builds the immune system whereas fish is high in omega 3oils but best of all patients need to remain hydrated by taking a plenty of juice and water.

Even though dietary supplements could be recommended, Dr. Kafeero says these should be used with the doctor’s guidance.

“If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer always seek medical advice before using the herbs and supplements so that the medic will guide your treatment routine. Some alternative treatments for prostate cancer may be harmful when used with standard cancer treatments”.

He however discourages meats that men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer.

For the already sick, both medics suggest vigorous medical exercise may maximize the chances of longer survival and improved quality of life for instance walking, running, bicycling, swimming and other outdoor work for not less than three hours a week.

Apart from physical fitness, Dr. Okuku says appropriate exercise prescription can benefit prostate cancer patients in symptom management and in mitigating fatigue associated with radiotherapy.

Though the exact causes of prostate cancer are still unknown, doctors have found some risk factors that cause prostate cells to become cancerous for instance one’s family background, being overweight, unhealthy diet and smoking.

“Certain changes in the chemical that make up our genes can cause normal prostate cells to grow abnormally and form cancers. Cancer can be caused in part by DNA alteration that turn on oncogenes( cancer causing genes)  or turn off tumor suppressor genes”, Dr. Okuku says DNA changes can either be inherited from a parent or can be acquired during a person’s lifetime.

Inherited genes may cause about 5% to 10% of prostate cancers.  Most DNA mutations related to prostate cancer seem to develop during a man’s life rather than having been inherited.

“Every time a cell prepares to divide into 2 new cells, it must copy its DNA. This process is not perfect, and sometimes errors occur, leaving defective DNA in the new cell”.

In general, the more quickly prostate cells grow and divide the more chances there are for mutations to occur. Therefore, anything that speeds up this process may make prostate cancer more likely.

According to Dr. Kafeero, development of prostate cancer may also be linked to increased levels of certain hormones for instance high levels of testosterone promote prostate cell growth, and may contribute to prostate cancer risk in some men.  He explains that higher frequency of ejaculation leads to reduction of concentration of cancer causing substances in semen.

According to Dr. Okuku, prostate cancer patients can be treated by surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. But several medics have found these treatments to be with side effects for some men.

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