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All Fats May Increase Prostate Cancer Risk


All types of fat—saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated—may increase the risk of early onset prostate cancer, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Men who are concerned about the health of their prostate may want to put down the fatty burgers and pizza and pick up more vegetables and fruit.

The American Cancer Society noted that in 2009, an estimated 192,280 new cases of prostate cancer would be diagnosed, and that 27,360 men would die of the disease. Prostate cancer is second only to skin cancer as the most common cancer among men in the United States, and second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in American males.

The role of diet in prostate cancer has been the subject of considerable research and not well understood, and the debate about the contribution of fat has been ongoing. Exercise and a healthy diet are protective against some types of cancer, and in the case of prostate cancer, research has shown some promise for several dietary factors, including folate and lycopene. Results of studies examining the impact of fats have been mixed.

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In the new study, which was conducted by a team at the University of Nottingham Medical School, the dietary habits of 512 men with prostate cancer were compared with those of 838 healthy controls. The data showed that the highest average intakes of total fat were associated with a 153 percent increase in prostate cancer when compared with the lowest average intakes. When the types of fats were identified individually, the results were similar (saturated fat, 149%; polyunsaturated fat, 134%; monounsaturated fat, 169%).

This study did not address trans fats, which were the subject of a Harvard study in 2008, in which the researchers found that increased consumption of trans fats may increase the risk of non-aggressive prostate tumors by about 100 percent. The study followed nearly 15,000 men over a 13-year period.

The results of this study suggest that a high-fat diet, regardless of the type of fat consumed, may put men at considerable risk of prostate cancer. However, because it has been shown that monounsaturated fats have many health benefits, men should make sure that the fats they do consume are healthy ones.

American Cancer Society
Chavarro JE et al. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2008 Jan; 17(1): 95-101
Lophatananon A et al. British Journal of Nutrition, 2010 Jan. online