Tag Archives: prostate cancer

 This is a thought-provoking study that looked at environmental quality and cancer incidence in counties throughout the US. The researchers found that the more polluted the county, the higher the cancer incidence. An increase in cancer rates was associated with poorer air quality and the "built environment" (such as major highways). They correctly point out that many things together can contribute to cancer occurring - and this is why looking at how polluted the air, water, etc. together is important.

They looked at the most common causes of cancer death in both men (lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer), and women (lung, breast, and colorectal cancer). They found that prostate and breast cancer demonstrated the strongest associations with poor environmental quality. [Original study.]

The researchers point out that about half of cancers are thought to have a genetic component, but therefore the other half have environmental causes. Other studies already find that environmental exposures (e.g., pesticides, diesel exhaust) are linked to various cancers. But this study was an attempt to look at interactions of various things in the environment with rates of cancer - because we all are exposed to a number of things simultaneously wherever we live, not just to exposures to one thing. Thus this study looked at associations in rates of cancer. 

Of course there is also a lifestyle contribution to many cancers that wasn't looked at here (nutrition, alcohol use, exercise). They also pointed out that many counties in the US are large and encompass both very polluted and non-polluted areas - and that those counties should be broken up into smaller geographic areas when studied. [More air pollution studies.] From Science Daily:

Poor overall environmental quality linked to elevated cancer rates

Nationwide, counties with the poorest quality across five domains -- air, water, land, the built environment and sociodemographic -- had the highest incidence of cancer, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer. Poor air quality and factors of the built environment -- such as the presence of major highways and the availability of public transit and housing -- -- were the most strongly associated with high cancer rates, while water quality and land pollution had no measurable effect.

Previous research has shown that genetics can be blamed for only about half of all cancers, suggesting that exposure to environmental toxins or socioeconomic factors may also play a role. "Most research has focused on single environmental factors like air pollution or toxins in water," said Jyotsna Jagai, research assistant professor of environmental and occupational health in the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and lead author of the study. "But these single factors don't paint a comprehensive picture of what a person is exposed to in their environment -- and may not be as helpful in predicting cancer risk, which is impacted by multiple factors including the air you breathe, the water you drink, the neighborhood you live in, and your exposure to myriad toxins, chemicals and pollutants."

To investigate the effects of overall environmental quality, the researchers looked at hundreds of variables, including air and water pollution, pesticide and radon levels, neighborhood safety, access to health services and healthy food, presence of heavily-trafficked highways and roads, and sociodemographic factors, such as poverty. Jagai and her colleagues used the U.S. EPA's Environmental Quality Index, a county-level measure incorporating more than 200 of these environmental variables and obtained cancer incidence rates from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program State Cancer Profiles. Cancer data were available for 85 percent of the 3,142 U.S. counties.

The average age-adjusted rate for all types of cancer was 451 cases per 100,000 people. Counties with poor environmental quality had higher incidence of cancer -- on average, 39 more cases per 100,000 people -- than counties with high environmental quality. Increased rates were seen for both males and females, and prostate and breast cancer demonstrated the strongest association with poor environmental quality.

The researchers found that high levels of air pollution, poor quality in the built environment and high levels of sociodemographic risk factors were most strongly associated with increased cancer rates in men and women. The strongest associations were seen in urban areas, especially for the air and built environment domains. Breast and prostate cancer were most strongly associated with poor air quality.

Surprising results (to me at least) from research comparing various diets and incidence of several cancers in 11,082 individuals in the Netherlands over a 20 year period. I expected the daily meat eaters to have higher rates of the 3 cancers studied, but no....

Their main conclusion: vegetarians, pescetarians (no meat, but does eat fish), and low-meat consumers did not have a reduced risk of lung, postmenopausal breast, and overall prostate cancer when compared with individuals consuming meat on a daily basis. This is after taking confounders such as smoking into account (because smokers have higher rates of cancers such as lung cancer). The researchers do point out that some other similar studies had mixed results, but that perhaps those studies did not take confounders (variables that distort the results) such as smoking, physical activity levels, alcohol consumption, etc. into account. From the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition:

Vegetarianism, low meat consumption and the risk of lung, postmenopausal breast and prostate cancer in a population-based cohort study

The few prospective studies that examined lung, female breast and prostate cancer risk in vegetarians have yielded mixed results, whereas none have studied the effects of low meat diets. Moreover, little is known about the explanatory role of (non-) dietary factors associated with these diets.The Netherlands Cohort Study—Meat Investigation Cohort (NLCS-MIC)— is an analytical cohort of 11,082 individuals including 1133 self-reported vegetarians (aged 55–69 years at baseline). At baseline (1986), subjects completed a questionnaire on dietary habits and other risk factors for cancer and were classified into vegetarians (n=691), pescetarians (n=389), 1 day per week (n=1388), 2–5 days per week (n=2965) and 6–7 days per week meat consumers (n=5649).

After 20.3 years of follow-up, 279 lung, 312 postmenopausal breast and 399 prostate cancer cases (including 136 advanced) were available for analyses. After adjustment for confounding variables, we found no statistically significant association between meat consumption groups and the risk of lung cancer. As well, no significant associations were observed for postmenopausal breast and overall prostate cancer. After adjustment for confounders, individuals consuming meat 1 day per week were at a 75% increased risk of advanced prostate cancer compared with 6–7 days per week meat consumers.

Vegetarians, pescetarians and 1 day per week meat consumers did not have a reduced risk of lung, postmenopausal breast and overall prostate cancer compared with individuals consuming meat on a daily basis after taking confounders into account.

Although vegetarian diets are primarily defined by the absence of meat and fish, they are also shown to be associated with high intakes of fruits and vegetables and a favorable distribution of non-dietary factors.1, 2 Consequently, vegetarian diets may reduce the risk of different types of cancers through multiple mechanisms, depending on the etiology and preventability of the tumor.3, 4

We previously reported a nonsignificantly reduced risk of vegetarian and low meat diets on colorectal, and especially rectal, cancer5 and set out to study its effect on three other major cancers. Although meat consumption has been hypothesized to be implicated in the etiology of lung, female breast and prostate cancer, data are not consistent across studies and meat subtypes.6, 7, 8However, on the basis of the existing body of literature, vegetarians may be at a lower risk of developing lung cancer (because of lower smoking rates) and to postmenopausal breast cancer (because of lower alcohol consumption, lower body mass index and higher physical activity levels).

Results from this prospective cohort study showed that, in age- and sex-adjusted models, vegetarians and pescetarians were at a reduced risk of lung cancer compared with individuals consuming meat on a daily basis. This effect disappeared after taking confounders, especially smoking, into account. We did not observe an association between the meat consumption group and the risk of post-menopausal breast and overall prostate cancer.

Our null findings regarding post-menopausal breast cancer risk are in line with other prospective studies comparing vegetarians with non-vegetarians and a pooled analysis of five cohort studies on breast cancer mortality. In contrast, the UK Women’s Cohort Study reported a lower post-menopausal breast cancer risk among non-meat consumers compared with high meat consumers,14 although this was not observed in their dietary pattern analyses.15 Vegetarian diets are rich in fiber and soy. Fiber was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in a meta-analysis of prospective studies,19 and soy contains isoflavones, which have previously been associated with a significant reduced risk of postmenopausal breast cancer in Asian populations.20 However, compared with the average soy intake in four Asian countries (ranging from 38 to 134 g/day21), the soy product intake among vegetarians in our population was likely too low to exert an effect (~15g per day).

 We've all heard of immunotherapy as a possible future treatment for many cancers, but other possible treatments are also being tested. Two possibilities caught my eye. The first study is looking at exercise for advanced prostate cancer - to extend life, and the other is testing a vaccine for those with prostate cancer who haven't yet treated it (they've just been doing "active surveillance" instead).  And since the studies are occurring now, and people are still joining, then the results are still unknown and won't be known for years. But one can hope.... Exercise as anticancer therapy? A vaccine after cancer diagnosis?

From Medical Xpress: Exercise, future anticancer therapy?

At age 70, Alfred Roberts plays hockey twice a week. Nothing special, right? Except that for three years he has had advanced prostate cancer, which has spread to his bones. "I've always been active. Hockey keeps me in shape and keeps my mind off things. I've got friends that have played until age 80, and my goal is to beat them!" said the veteran stick handler.

Several studies have demonstrated the benefits of exercise to improve the quality of life of people with cancer. But Dr. Fred Saad, urologist-oncologist and researcher at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM), goes further. He believes that physical exercise has a direct effect on cancer, as effective as drugs, for treating patients with prostate cancer, even in advanced stages of the disease.

"Typical patients with metastases often become sedentary. It is thought that this affects cancer progression," he said. Together with Robert Newton, professor at the Edith Cowan University Exercise Medicine Research Institute in Australia, Dr. Saad is leading the first international study which aims to demonstrate that exercise literally extends the life of patients with metastatic prostate cancer....In the coming weeks, some sixty hospitals across the world will begin recruiting patients. In total, nearly 900 men with advanced prostate cancer will participate.

"We will study exercise as if it were a drug added to standard treatments. All patients will be treated within the latest scientific knowledge for this type of cancer. They will continue to follow their therapies and take their medications. But half of the patients will receive psychosocial support with general recommendations on physical exercise. The other half will also follow a high intensity exercise program," he explained.

The exercise medicine expert Professor Robert Newton has designed a specific strength and cardiovascular training program for patients in the "exercise" group. "They will have an hour of aerobic and resistance training three times a week. An exercise specialist will supervise them for the first 12 months, and then they will continue without direct supervision. We will evaluate quality of life, appetite, and treatment tolerance in relation to their improved physical condition," said Professor Newton, who is co-director of the Edith Cowan University, Exercise Medicine Research Institute.

The hypothesis is that exercise has a direct impact on cancer progression in addition to helping patients better tolerate therapy. Ultimately, they will live longer. The results of this large study, which involves some one hundred researchers in Canada, the US, Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK, will not be known for five years. Could the findings be extended to other types of cancer? It is too early to tell, but researchers are betting that exercise could well become the next anticancer therapy. Alfred Roberts is also convinced that exercise helps defy the odds: "As long as I can skate, I'll play hockey!"

From Medscape:  A Treatment Vaccine for Low-Risk Prostate Cancer

A Louisiana-based biopharmaceutical company is betting that its experimental immunotherapeutic vaccine can keep previously untreated prostate cancer in check. The company, OncBioMune Pharnaceuticals, Inc, in Baton Rouge, is planning to test the vaccine, dubbed ProscaVax, in a phase 2 trial for patients with previously untreated prostate cancer and in a second trial for patients with recurrent or hormone-refractory disease. The trial of a treatment vaccine in untreated, low-risk prostate cancer patients is novel.

 Two recent studies link low vitamin D levels with more aggressive cancers: aggressive prostate cancer in men and more aggressive breast cancers (in mice and women). Researchers generally advise people to take 1000 to 2000 international units per day of vitamin D3 to maintain normal blood levels of of more than 30 nanograms/milliliter. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, which is why vitamin D is frequently called the sunshine vitamin.

From Science Daily:  Low vitamin D predicts aggressive prostate cancer

A new study provides a major link between low levels of vitamin D and aggressive prostate cancer. Northwestern Medicine research showed deficient vitamin D blood levels in men can predict aggressive prostate cancer identified at the time of surgery.

"Vitamin D deficiency may predict aggressive prostate cancer as a biomarker," said lead investigator Dr. Adam Murphy, an assistant professor of urology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine urologist. "Men with dark skin, low vitamin D intake or low sun exposure should be tested for vitamin D deficiency when they are diagnosed with an elevated PSA or prostate cancer. Then a deficiency should be corrected with supplements."

Aggressive prostate cancer is defined by whether the cancer has migrated outside of the prostate and by a high Gleason score. A low Gleason score means the cancer tissue is similar to normal prostate tissue and less likely to spread; a high one means the cancer tissue is very different from normal and more likely to spread. The study was part of a larger ongoing study of 1,760 men in the Chicago area examining vitamin D and prostate cancer. The current study included 190 men, average age of 64, who underwent a radical prostatectomy to remove their prostate from 2009 to 2014.

Of that group, 87 men had aggressive prostate cancer. Those with aggressive cancer had a median level of 22.7 nanograms per milliliter of vitamin D, significantly below the normal level of more than 30 nanograms/milliliter. The average D level in Chicago during the winter is about 25 nanograms/milliliter, Murphy noted....The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 international units of D per day, but Murphy recommends Chicago residents get 1,000 to 2,000 international units per day.

From Medical Xpress:  Vitamin D deficiency contributes to spread of breast cancer in mice, study finds

Breast tumors in laboratory mice deficient in vitamin D grow faster and are more likely to metastasize than tumors in mice with adequate levels of vitamin D, according to a preliminary study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.The research highlights a direct link between circulating vitamin D levels and the expression of a gene called ID1, known to be associated with tumor growth and breast cancer metastasis.

The finding builds upon several previous studies suggesting that low levels of vitamin D not only increase a person's risk of developing breast cancer, but are also correlated with more-aggressive tumors and worse prognoses. Although the research was conducted primarily in mice and on mouse cells, the researchers found in a study of 34 breast cancer patients that levels of circulating vitamin D were inversely correlated with the expression levels of ID1 protein in their tumors, and they confirmed that a vitamin D metabolite directly controls the expression of the ID1 gene in a human breast cancer cell line.

Once ingested or made by the body, vitamin D is converted through a series of steps into its active form, calcitriol. Calcitriol binds to a protein in cells called the vitamin D receptor, which then enters the cell's nucleus to control the expression of a variety of genes, including those involved in calcium absorption and bone health.

In the new study, Williams and Aggarwal investigated whether vitamin D levels affected the metastatic ability of mouse breast cancer cells implanted into the mammary fat pad of laboratory mice. One group of 10 mice was first fed a diet lacking in the vitamin for 10 weeks; the other 10 received a normal dose in their food. Mice fed a diet deficient in vitamin D developed palpable tumors an average of seven days sooner than their peers, and after six weeks of growth those tumors were significantly larger in size than those in animals with adequate vitamin D levels.

 Reading this recent study, I was struck by how it is evidence for eating sulforaphane containing foods, such as kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage for health and preventing cancer (due to anti-tumor activity). It is debatable whether it is support for taking supplements (here a sulforaphane supplement called BSE), even though the researchers were testing the supplement. Seven days of taking a supplement without "serious adverse events" (but they did have minor ones such as "mild abdominal discomfort") is too short a length of time for any support for a product. The real test would be seeing what health effects, both positive and negative, are after a year or two of taking the supplement.

Numerous other studies have found that eating foods are linked to good health, while taking supplements are linked to various health problems. Some scientists speculate that it's because the doses in supplements are too high - that they're much higher than what is found in foods. Also, supplements may be missing important nutrients that are found in foods. Bottom line: eat real foods for health and and cancer prevention, including several servings a week of cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress,bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts and similar green leaf vegetables). From Futurity:

Can A Broccoli Sprout Pill Fight Cancer?

A compound in broccoli sprouts may not only help prevent cancer but also treat itSulforaphane is found in vegetables such as kale, cauliflower, and cabbage—and in particularly high concentrations in young broccoli sprouts. Sulforaphane also is available as a dietary supplement called BSE.

Researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology, along with collaborators in Oregon, had previously found that sulforaphane could inhibit colon and prostate cancer cells in the laboratory. They’ve now shown that it seems to help humans as well. A paper published in the journal Clinical Epigenetics hints at the biological pathways involved and suggests BSE is generally safe.

“We have not seen any serious adverse events in healthy volunteers who consumed BSE pills for seven days,” says Praveen Rajendran, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University, although some people did experience mild abdominal discomfort.

In a separate clinical study, 28 human volunteers over the age of 50, who were undergoing routine colonoscopies, were surveyed for their cruciferous vegetable-eating habits. When their colon biopsies were examined, those who ate more servings were found to have higher levels of expression of the tumor suppressor gene p16 than those who ate few or no cruciferous vegetables.

This effect on p16 held even for people who didn’t eat these vegetables every single day, which may seem strange, as a single serving of sulforaphane is generally cleared from the body in less than 24 hours. “This hints at the possibility that epigenetic mechanisms are initially triggered by sulforaphane and its metabolites, and downstream mechanisms could be sustained, at least in the short-term, even after compounds are eliminated from the body.” In other words, eating vegetables containing sulforaphane may change your genes and help your body fight tumor growth.

However, it’s not all good news. In animal models, sulforaphane was shown to generally inhibit the development of colon cancer, but it’s a bit of a two-edged sword. Sulforaphane induces a protein called Nrf2, which has beneficial antioxidant and detoxifying effects—and is obviously good for fighting cancer. Later in the development of cancer, though, Nrf2 can also have a role in tumor growth and can even enhance the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Data from 2 huge studies was analyzed and found that vigorous exercise and other healthy habits seems to cut the chance of developing aggressive and lethal prostate cancer up to 68 percent in men over 60. The beneficial lifestyle habits are: weekly vigorous exercise or activity to the point of sweating, at least 7 servings of tomatoes a week, at least one serving of fatty fish per week, reduced intake of processed meat, and being a long-term non-smoker. Interestingly, vigorous activity or exercise to sweating - ideally up to 3 hours a week - showed the biggest association with a 34 % reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer.From Science Daily:

Working up a sweat may protect men from lethal prostate cancer

A study that tracked tens of thousands of midlife and older men for more than 20 years has found that vigorous exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits may cut their chances of developing a lethal type of prostate cancer by up to 68 percent.

While most prostate cancers are "clinically indolent," meaning they do not metastasize and are nonlife-threatening, a minority of patients are diagnosed with aggressive disease that invades the bone and other organs, and is ultimately fatal. Lead author Stacey Kenfield, ScD, of UCSF, and a team of researchers at UCSF and Harvard, focused on this variant of prostate cancer to determine if exercise, diet and smoke-free status might have life-saving benefits.

In the study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the researchers analyzed data from two U.S. studies: the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study that tracked more than 42,000 males ages 40 to 75, from 1986 to 2010; and a second, the Physicians' Health Study that followed more than 20,000 males ages 40 to 84, from 1982 to 2010.

To gage the effects of lifestyle habits, the researchers developed a score based on the results of the health professionals survey, then applied it to the physicians' study. They assigned one point for each affirmative response to questions about regular intense exercise that induced sweating, body mass index (BMI) under 30, tobacco-free status for a minimum of 10 years, high intake of fatty fish, high intake of tomatoes and low intake of processed meat.

The researchers identified 576 cases of lethal prostate cancer in the health professionals' group and 337 cases in the physicians' group. Participants with 5 to 6 points in the health professionals' group had a 68 percent decreased risk of lethal prostate cancer and a 38 percent decreased risk was observed in the physicians' group for the same comparison.

"We estimated that 47 percent of lethal prostate cancer cases would be prevented in the United States if men over 60 had five or more of these healthy habits," said Kenfield, assistant professor in the Department of Urology at UCSF Medical Center, and formerly of the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, where the study was initiated.

"It's interesting that vigorous activity had the highest potential impact on prevention of lethal prostate cancer. We calculated the population-attributable risk for American men over 60 and estimated that 34 percent of lethal prostate cancer would be reduced if all men exercised to the point of sweating for at least three hours a week," Kenfield said.

The researchers also calculated that lethal prostate cancer among American men over 60 would be cut by 15 percent if they consumed at least seven servings of tomatoes per week and that 17 percent would be spared this diagnosis if they consumed at least one serving of fatty fish per week. Reducing intake of processed meats would cut the risk by 12 percent, they reported. In contrast, the population-attributed risk for smoking was 3 percent, largely because the majority of older American men are long-term nonsmokers.

A report by 3 prominent specialists (including Gilbert Welch - who has been discussed in earlier posts) about trends in metastatic breast and prostate cancer came out today in the New England Journal of Medicine. The biggest finding was that mammograms have not cut the rate of metastatic breast cancer. Mammography screening is based on the hope that cancer that is detected in an early, localized phase can then be treated more easily and that it would reduce the numbers of metastastic cancers (that spread to lymph nodes and to more distant organs) that eventually kill. However, this has not happened.The incidence of metastatic breast cancer has been stable since 1975, and the average age of diagnosis among women older than 40 is still 63.7 years . The authors theorize that "breast cancer is a systemic disease by the time it's detectable". From Medical Xpress:

Study: Mammograms haven't cut rate of advanced breast cancer

A new report raises fresh questions about the value of mammograms. The rate of cancers that have already spread far beyond the breast when they are discovered has stayed stable for decades, suggesting that screening and early detection are not preventing the most dangerous forms of the disease. The report, in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, is by three prominent cancer specialists and is based on federal statistics going back to the 1970s.

"We're undergoing what I think for the public is a very confusing debate" about screening, but it's really "a course correction" prompted by more awareness of its risks and benefits to various groups of women, said Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a health policy expert at Dartmouth Medical School. "All they heard for years was, 'there are only benefits.'" He is the lead author of the report, co-written with Dr. David Gorski of Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit and Dr. Peter Albertsen of the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.

"Screening offers hope that cancer can be detected in an early, localized phase when it's more amenable to treatment," they write, but that assumes that cancer starts in one place, grows and then spreads. If that was always true, screening would reduce the rate of advanced cancers. And that has not happened. The rate of breast cancers detected at an advanced stage has been stable since 1975, despite wide use of mammography since the 1980s. The average age of women diagnosed with cancer also has remained around 63, another sign cancers are not being found sooner.

The trends suggest that some breast cancers are already "systemic" or widely spread from the start, and that finding them sooner has limited impact. "Screening mammography has been unable to identify those bad cancers, destined to become metastatic, at an earlier stage. That doesn't say mammography doesn't help less aggressive cancers," but those are less likely to prove deadly, Welch said.

Dr. Barnett Kramer, a screening expert at the National Cancer Institute, said the report shows the limitations of mammography. "I wouldn't want to say it has had no effect but it certainly has not lived up to the anticipated effect," he said. For every tumor detected early because of mammography, "you would hope to see ... an equal reduction in metastatic disease, and that has not occurred."

The situation is very different with prostate cancer. The rate of advanced cases of that disease has been cut in half since screening with PSA blood tests came into wide use around 1988, and the average age at which men are diagnosed has fallen—from 72 to 70, the authors write. However, this does not prove PSA testing is good. Shifting the stage at which a disease is diagnosed is "only the first step for successful screening," which also has to save lives to be worthwhile, Welch said. "Just because you find something earlier doesn't mean you can change its course."

Again, Kramer agreed. Prostate screening, "when put to a definitive test, did not show a clear reduction in prostate cancer mortality" in large, rigorously done trials, he said. The government task force recommends against PSA testing, and says its risks outweigh its benefits for most men.

"Screening is a close call," Welch said. "My guess is few people are helped" by prostate or breast cancer screening while many are harmed by false alarms that trigger unnecessary tests and treatments, he said.

The original report, which also includes a discussion on prostate cancer and the PSA test, in the New England Journal of Medicine:  Trends in Metastatic Breast and Prostate Cancer — Lessons in Cancer Dynamics

The issue of overdiagnosis and overtreatment has recently been in the news, especially when discussing breast cancer, prostate cancer, and thyroid cancer. Meaning too much unnecessary treatment with harms, when the best approach would have been to do nothing, as studies have suggested or actually shown. Now here is an article in Medscape suggesting that rather than be quick to operate or treat, the best approach for nearly 70% of prostate cancers may be just "watching".

The U.S. Preventive Task Force, which analyzes the value of screening tests, in May 2012 recommended AGAINST routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based screening for prostate cancer for all age groups. According to them, studies do not show that benefits of routine screening of asymptomatic prostate cancer and the resulting treatment outweigh the harms of treatment (e.g., surgical complications including death from surgery, erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, bowel dysfunction, and bladder dysfunction), or that prostate cancer treatment even reduces mortality (deaths). They point out that: "There is convincing evidence that PSA-based screening programs result in the detection of many cases of asymptomatic prostate cancer. There is also convincing evidence that a substantial percentage of men who have asymptomatic cancer detected by PSA screening have a tumor that either will not progress or will progress so slowly that it would have remained asymptomatic for the man's lifetime. The terms "overdiagnosis" or "pseudo-disease" are used to describe both situations." (NOTE: others have argued against this recommendation)

When reading the full Medscape article, it was pointed out that in the study being discussed, one person who was offered active surveillance but declined and was treated with an immediate radical prostatectomy, still died of metastatic prostate cancer. This was an example of a case where when the disease is truly aggressive, it may have spread "like a bird" throughout the body (in Dr. H. Gilbert Welch's terms in his books Overdiagnosed and Less Medicine, More Health) from the very beginning, and may be unstoppable no matter what is done. I have also noticed reading other prostate cancer studies that a certain percentage of prostate cancers regress from the point of diagnosis (the PSA test and biopsy). In other words, researchers are finding that cancer can have different paths: regresses, stays the same, grows slowly (and can be treated when symptoms appear), or grows very quickly and is so aggressive and unstoppable that it goes through the body "like a bird". And we don't know which will be the aggressive ones when we first find them, thus the controversies over what to do: screen or not?, and treat or not? From Medscape:

Nearly 70% of US Prostate Cancers Could Be Watched

More than two-thirds (68%) of all prostate cancers in the United States qualify for active surveillance, according to a study published in the September issue of the Journal of Urology. And if a more stringent definition of surveillance eligibility is used, 44% of cases would be candidates for monitoring instead of immediate treatment, say senior author Ian M. Thompson III, MD, from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and colleagues. These "target" figures are especially credible because they come from a population-based study funded by the National Cancer Institute, and the 3828 participants from Texas undergo regular prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing.

Of the 320 men in the cohort who developed prostate cancer from 2000 to 2012, 281 had data that were sufficient to allow scoring on very detailed surveillance scorecard.Disease characteristics, such as a high Gleason score, rendered 131 of the 320 men ineligible for active surveillance. But 123 of the men (44%) met a conservative set of criteria and were eligible for surveillance.These "lowest-risk" patients had a PSA density below 15%, fewer than three cores involved with cancer, a Gleason score of 6 or less, and cancer involving 50% of biopsy volume or less. Another 64 men (24%) were eligible when a more expansive set of criteria was used. These "higher-risk" men had fewer than five cores with Gleason 3 + 3 cancer and only one core of Gleason 3 + 4 cancer with up to 15% of the core involved with the Gleason 3 + 4 disease.

When the two groups were combined, 187 patients (68%) were eligible for active surveillance. Predictably, the number of men who actually chose active surveillance was much lower. From 2000 to 2007, 11% of the men diagnosed with prostate cancer opted for surveillance. From 2007 to 2012, 35% of the men opted for surveillance.

Active surveillance should be offered to "an expanded population of well-informed men who may value preserving function above a small risk of disease progression," write Marc Dall'Era, MD, from the University of California, Davis, and Peter Carroll, MD, from the University of California, San Francisco, in an accompanying editorialIn other words, the approach is not just for the lowest-risk cases, they opine.They explain that "the risks of adverse disease-specific outcomes will likely be higher with the inclusion of men with more intermediate-risk features." However, the "absolute risk may still be low," they write.

Perhaps even more important, the study authors observe, is that if the well-documented phenomenon of upgrading or upstaging "truly translated to subsequent consequential outcomes," then "far greater" rates of disease progression, metastases, and death would have been reported in other series of patients. And that has not happened.

 The pair also point to the current study as proof that active surveillance is a reasonable approach, not just for "very-low-risk" disease, but for low- and intermediate-risk prostate cancer, too.

Notably, two of the 320 patients in the Texas cohort either experienced metastatic disease or died of prostate cancer.One of these patients met the expanded criteria and was eligible for active surveillance. "While this could argue against active surveillance, it is notable that this patient underwent radical prostatectomy immediately following diagnosis," the authors explain. The other patient, who was ineligible for surveillance under either definition, was treated definitively but experienced disease progression.     

The prostate gland is located beneath a man's bladder.    Credit: Alila Medical Media | Shutterstock

Image result for plant foods Prostate cancer diagnosis is scary enough, but knowing that dietary changes can increase favorable odds is good. Once again a Mediterranean style diet  or "healthy diet"(whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and fish) is beneficial, while a Western diet (highly processed foods, red meat, processed meat, and dairy) is linked to higher rates of death. This study was from the Harvard School of Public Health and followed male physicians for an average of 14 years after prostate cancer diagnosis. From Science Daily:

Western diet may increase risk of death after prostate cancer diagnosis

After a prostate cancer diagnosis, eating a diet higher in red and processed meat, high-fat dairy foods, and refined grains--known as a Western diet--may lead to a significantly higher risk of both prostate cancer-related mortality and overall mortality compared with eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, whole grains, legumes, and healthy oils, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study, which appears online June 1, 2015 in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, offers insight on how diet may help improve survivorship for the nearly three million men living with prostate cancer in the U.S."There is currently very little evidence to counsel men living with prostate cancer on how they can modify their lifestyle to improve survival. Our results suggest that a heart-healthy diet may benefit these men by specifically reducing their chances of dying of prostate cancer," said Jorge Chavarro, assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study.

Researchers examined health and diet data from 926 men participating in the Physicians' Health Study I and II who were diagnosed with prostate cancer. They followed the men for an average of 14 years after their diagnosis, grouping them into quartiles according to whether they followed a Western dietary pattern or a "prudent" (higher consumption of vegetables, fruits, fish, legumes, and whole grains) dietary pattern.

They found that men who ate mostly a Western diet (those in the highest quartile of the Western dietary pattern) had two-and-a-half times higher risk of prostate cancer-related death--and a 67% increased risk of death from any cause--than those in the lowest quartile. Men who ate mostly a "prudent" diet had a 36% lower risk of death from all causes.

Great reasons to eat walnuts. Yes, this study was done in mice, but it (as supported by other research) should also apply to humans.From Medical Xpress:

'Tis the season to indulge in walnuts

Researchers at UC Davis and other institutions have found that diets rich in whole walnuts or walnut oil slowed prostate cancer growth in mice. In addition, both walnuts and walnut oil reduced cholesterol and increased insulin sensitivity. The walnut diet also reduced levels of the hormone IGF-1, which had been previously implicated in both prostate and breast cancer. The study was published online in the Journal of Medicinal Food. 

Davis and colleagues have been investigating the impact of walnuts on health for some time. A previous study found that walnuts reduced prostate tumor size in mice; however, there were questions about which parts of the nuts generated these benefits. 

In the current study, researchers used a mixture of fats with virtually the same fatty acid content as walnuts as their control diet. The mice were fed whole walnuts, walnut oil or the walnut-like fat for 18 weeks. The results replicated those from the previous study. While the walnuts and walnut oil reduced cholesterol and slowed prostate cancer growth, in contrast, the walnut-like fat did not have these effects, confirming that other nut components caused the improvements - not the omega-3s.

While the study does not pinpoint which combination of compounds in walnuts slows cancer growth, it did rule out fiber, zinc, magnesium and selenium. In addition, the research demonstrated that walnuts modulate several mechanisms associated with cancer growth.

"The energy effects from decreasing IGF-1 seem to muck up the works so the cancer can't grow as fast as it normally would," Davis said. "Also, reducing cholesterol means cancer cells may not get enough of it to allow these cells to grow quickly." In addition, the research showed increases in both adiponectin and the tumor suppressor PSP94, as well as reduced levels of COX-2, all markers for reduced prostate cancer risk.

Although results in mice don't always translate to humans, Davis said his results suggest the benefits of incorporating walnuts into a healthy diet. Other research, such as the PREDIMED human study, which assessed the Mediterranean diet, also found that eating walnuts reduced cancer mortality.

Still, Davis recommends caution in diet modification. "In our study the mice were eating the equivalent of 2.6 ounces of walnuts," he said. "You need to realize that 2.6 ounces of walnuts is about 482 calories. That's not insignificant, but it's better than eating a serving of supersized fries, which has 610 calories. In addition to the cancer benefit, we think you also get cardiovascular benefits that other walnut research has demonstrated.