Coffee, Beer and Exercise May Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk

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Research presented this week at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Houston, Texas shows benefits to men having an extra cup of joe, a bottle of brew, and just 15 minutes of intense exercise a day. They may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Kathryn Wilson and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health studied data on 50,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow Up Study. Between 1986 and 2006, 4,975 developed prostate cancer. Men who drank six or more cups of coffee a day had about a 19 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer overall, and a 60% lower risk of developing an advanced form of the disease. Men who drank 4 or 5 cups had a 25% lower risk.

The link was found with both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, both of which improved insulin and glucose metabolism. A number of studies have found that coffee is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes. Higher insulin levels have been associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.

"I wouldn't recommend that people change their coffee-drinking habits based on this study," said Wilson. "But if you like coffee, there is no compelling reason to cut back at this point."

The second study, by Stacey A. Kenfield, a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health, reviewed the levels of physical activity among 2,686 men in the same study who were diagnosed with prostate cancer. Men who reported exercising vigorously three or more hours per week had a 35 percent lower death rate from all forms of disease, and reducing risk of death from prostate cancer by 22%.

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Men who exercised in some form for at least 90 minutes a week had reduced risk. Those who exercised with more intensity showed greater benefit that those who exercised at a slower pace.

The beneficial mechanism is an improvement to immune function and reduction of inflammation. “We saw benefits at very attainable levels of activity. We recommend that men with prostate cancer do some type of physical activity for their overall health,” said Dr. Kenfield.

The third study, from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany, found that an ingredient in beer, xanthohumol, blocked a biological pathway in lab rats that inhibited the secretion of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and blocked testosterone effects in hormone-sensitive tissue. Xanthohumol works similarly to the medications used to treat prostate cancer.

“We hope that one day we can demonstrate that xanthohumol prevents prostate cancer development…but we are just at the beginning,” said lead researcher Clarissa Gerhauser.

Xanthohumol is derived from hops, the bitter flavoring agent in beer, and is classified as a flavonoid, an antioxidant that has anti-cancer properties.

Approximately 200,000 men in the United States were diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. It is the second-deadliest malignancy among men after lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

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