Diet, Exercise and Reduced Stress Slow Prostate Cancer, Study Finds

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 11, 2005

Eating better, exercising regularly and cutting stress apparently can slow the progression of early prostate cancer, according to the first study to provide direct evidence that lifestyle changes can fight the common malignancy.

The study of 93 prostate cancer patients found that those who adopted a series of lifestyle changes that included a primarily vegan diet, regular moderate exercise, and yoga and other relaxation techniques scored better on a standard blood test used to monitor prostate cancer growth a year later. They were also less likely to require additional treatment, and their blood showed signs of being able to inhibit prostate cancer cells in lab tests.

Many studies have suggested that adopting healthful lifestyles can have a host of health benefits, including reducing the risk for various cancers. But the new research is the latest in a series of recent studies that have found that factors such as diet, exercise and stress reduction may have a powerful effect on cancer patients' prognoses.

"Diet and other lifestyle changes play an important role in the development of many health problems," said Dean Ornish of the University of California at San Francisco, who led the new study, being published in next month's issue of the Journal of Urology. "Now we have evidence it can slow the progression of prostate cancer."

Other researchers said many more studies will be needed to explore which components of the lifestyle changes may be important, and to demonstrate whether the effects translate into a reduced risk of dying.

"There's a building body of evidence that lifestyle may affect cancer progression," said Peter Greenwald of the National Cancer Institute. "This is a very important area, and this is one more important lead that indicates a crucial direction for more research."

But given that a healthful diet and regular exercise can have other benefits, several researchers said there is no reason patients should not consider adopting them in addition to their standard care.

"The take-home message is that an active lifestyle combined with a healthy diet definitely decreases the risk of many types of cancer, and in the case of early nonaggressive prostate cancer, it may slow disease progression," said Durado Brooks of the American Cancer Society.

Prostate cancer strikes 232,000 American men each year and kills about 30,000, making it the leading cause of cancer among men and the second-leading male cancer killer, after lung cancer.

Ornish and his colleagues studied 93 men who had been diagnosed with early prostate cancer. The men had opted not to seek treatment immediately but, instead, to closely monitor their tumors.

Half the men adopted a regimen that included a vegan diet -- primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes but no meat, eggs or dairy products -- supplemented with soy, vitamins and minerals.

That same group of men also started moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking 30 minutes six days a week; participated in a one-hour support group meeting once a week; and began using stress-management techniques, such as yoga, breathing exercises and meditation for an hour a day.

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