Scientists Say Nuts to Prostate Cancer
Scientists have recently reported that in spite of recommendations to reduce the chances of developing prostate cancer by following a low-fat diet that excludes fatty nuts, that some nuts may actually reduce a man's risk of developing prostate cancer and/or slow the growth of an existing prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the number two most common cancer in men. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 242,000 estimated new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in 2012 resulting in an estimated 28,000 deaths.
The prostate is an important part of the male reproductive system. Located in front of the rectum and beneath the bladder, it is a walnut-sized organ that surrounds the urethra. The prostate secretes a fluid that becomes part of the seminal fluid in ejaculate.
As a man ages, the prostate often increases in size and begins to pinch the urethra and thereby interferes with urine flow from the bladder to the penis.
Sometimes, abnormal uncontrolled cell growth occurs as a tumor in the prostate gland, which more often than not remains benign rather than malignant. However, if the tumor becomes malignant (cancerous) there is the risk that cells may break away from the tumor and spread cancer throughout the body.
What to do when prostate cancer develops in older men has been a continual controversial issue. While surgery, radiation, hormone and chemotherapy are options for removing or reducing the tumor, the treatments are thought to be contraindicated in many cases. Arguments have been made that too many men have prostate cancer surgery when due to their age and slow growth of the cancer, that they could have lived healthier lives with the tumor and eventually died from other causes before succumbing to cancer.
As a result, one option aside from invasive treatment for prostate cancer is to undergo active surveillance. Active surveillance avoids or delays surgery and radiation therapy by having your doctor monitor your prostate cancer regularly with an occasional biopsy to check tumor growth. If growth is progressing rapidly, your PSA level start to rise, or if you begin to develop symptoms, then active surveillance may be discontinued, and surgery, radiation therapy or other treatments can be initiated.
The risk of assuming active surveillance is that it may reduce the chance to control the cancer before it spreads. And, it may be harder for an older patient to cope and recover from surgery or radiation therapy.
However, if a way can be found to slow down or reduce tumor growth, then active surveillance could be the optimal way for a man to address his prostate cancer and live an otherwise normal and healthy life till old age brings death.
As it turns out, scientists may have found a way to slow down tumor growth in prostate cancer. In a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, UC Davis researchers and colleagues at the USDA Western Regional Research Center in Albany, California report that feeding walnuts to mice with prostate cancer resulted in smaller and slower growing tumors.
While previous studies have indicated that eating walnuts may prevent prostate and other cancers, the results by the researchers indicate that their findings may meet a more immediate and practical need toward helping men live with their prostate cancer without invasive surgery or radiation therapy.
According to lead author Paul Davis, a research nutritionist in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis, "…our findings suggest that eating a diet containing walnuts may slow prostate tumor growth so that the tumor remains inside the prostate capsule. If proven applicable in humans, men with prostate cancer could die of other causes—hopefully old age."
In the study, mice genetically engineered to develop prostate cancer where fed either the human equivalent of approximately 3 ounces of walnuts per day, or a soybean oil diet that matched the nutritional profile of the walnut diet. While mice from both diets gained the same amount of weight, the prostate tumors in walnut-fed mice were smaller and had a growth rate of 28% lower than the prostate tumors in the mice fed the soybean oil diet.
While walnuts are a rich source of fat, clearly the benefit toward treating prostate cancer could modify fat-free diets if the results seen in mice occur in men as well. Furthermore, eating walnuts offers other benefits such as a rich source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats and antioxidants.
The exact reason why walnuts appear to have this effect on prostate cancer is currently unknown; however, follow-up mouse studies are in the works to validate the recent findings and determine the possible reasons for why scientists can definitely say, “Nuts to prostate cancer.”
Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia
Reference: News from UC Davis Health System ”Walnut diet delivers promising results in mice with prostate cancer”