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ANN ARBOR, MI - When most men hear the words 'prostate cancer' they think of typical treatments - surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. But that's not necessarily their only course. Doctors at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center offer several options to treat the disease effectively, and are recommending dietary supplements and certain foods that may have a favorable effect.

More than 200,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and 40,000 men will die from the disease. The risk is even higher for African-American men, who are at twice the risk for getting - and dying from - the disease. It is second only to lung cancer as the leading cancer killer in men.

Along with the common occurrence of prostate cancer, there likewise seems to be a common misconception about treating it, says Mark Moyad, M.P.H., complementary health counselor for Urologic Oncology at the University of Michigan Health System. Patients immediately assume surgery is the only option.

In fact, he says, "That is not the case. Yes, there is the traditional form of surgical treatment. But there are also two types of radiation that can be used in combination with surgery or stand on their own. And other options include freezing the prostate, which was recently approved by the FDA, as well as watchful waiting." The length of time an individual watches the progression of their disease with out proceeding with other treatment is based on the individual's age and rate of progression of their disease.

Along with the traditional forms of treatment, Moyad says, individuals can employ complementary medicine approaches in conjunction with whatever conventional routes their doctors and they choose. But, he cautions, such tactics cannot replace modern medicine.

One exciting complementary option is nutrition. Moyad and others recommend eating a diet low in fat, and increasing the consumption of a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, with a particular emphasis on tomatoes and tomato products. This, and drinking a couple of cups of green tea a day has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. This one lifestyle change can have a dramatic effect. A study published in Seminars in Urologic Oncology has shown up to a 70% reduction in all-cause mortality and 61% reduction in cancers through diet modification.

"Nutrition as a complementary option is exciting in the sense that it can not only reduce your risk of the progression of prostate cancer, but also reduces your risk of a number of other conditions like cardiovascular disease," he says.

Another food that men may want to add to their diets is soy. Soy products contain plant estrogens, compounds researchers believe may be part of the reason for the lower rates of prostate cancer among men in Asia, where soy is much more commonly eaten than in the United States.

Other supplements that have shown good potential to reduce prostate cancer risk are selenium and vitamin E. Adding 200 micrograms of selenium and 50 milligrams (or 50 international units) of vitamin E a day to the diet may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer, studies have suggested.

Moyad warns that there are other popular alternative supplements that men are taking with the mistaken impression that they will either reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer in the first place, or slow the growth of their tumor. He cites such substances as shark cartilage, garlic supplements and zinc supplements.

"They really have no clinical studies to back up their use," he says. "In fact, the clinical studies using these supplements have not found any benefit to using them in terms of reducing risk or slowing progression of the disease."

Moyad emphasizes a combination of both medical worlds. "The primary goal here at U-M is to start incorporating conventional and alternative medicine together, to combine the best of what each has to offer."

But no matter what approach men take, early detection is the key, he says. "Prostate cancer can be cured in the early stages. So, screen annually starting at age 40 if you're African-American or have a family history of prostate cancer. For all other men, annual screening starting at age 50 is recommended as the key to early detection and treatment."

Facts about Prostate Cancer

  • 200,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer this year.
  • 40,000 men will die due to prostate cancer this year.
  • Caught early, prostate cancer is curable.
  • Screen annually for prostate cancer starting at age 40 if you are African-American or have a family history; at age 50 for all other men.

For more information on the Web try:

U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center Prostate Cancer Home Page

American Cancer Society Prostate Treatment Guidelines

Cancer Care

National Cancer Institute - Prostate Cancer

For more information via phone, call TeleCare at 1-800-742-2300 category 1010.

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