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Prostate Cancer, Nutrition, and Dietary Supplements (PDQ®): Complementary and alternative medicine - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Introduction

This complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) information summary provides an overview of the use of various foods and dietary supplements for reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer or for treating prostate cancer. This summary includes the history of research on the following six different foods or dietary supplements, reviews of laboratory and animal studies, and results of clinical trials.

  • Green tea.
  • Lycopene.
  • Modified citrus pectin.
  • Pomegranate.
  • Soy.
  • Zyflamend.

Each type of dietary supplement or food will have a dedicated section in the summary, and new topics will be added over time.

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Prostate cancer is the most common noncutaneous cancer affecting men in the United States. From 2004 to 2008, the median age of diagnosis of prostate cancer was 67, and the incidence rate was 156 cases per 100,000 men per year.[1]

Many studies suggest that CAM use is common among prostate cancer patients, and the use of vitamins, supplements, and specific foods is frequently reported by these patients. For example, the Prostate CAncer Therapy Selection (PCATS) study was a prospective that study investigated men's decision-making processes about treatment following a diagnosis of local stage prostate cancer. As part of this study, patients completed surveys regarding CAM use, and more than half of the respondents reported using one or more CAM therapies, with mind-body modalities and biologically based treatments being the most commonly used.[2]

International studies have reported similar findings. A Swedish study published in 2011 found that, overall, participants with prostate cancer were more likely to have used supplements than were healthy population-based control subjects. Supplement use was even more common among patients with the healthiest dietary patterns (e.g., high consumption of fatty fish and vegetables).[3] In a Canadian study, CAM use was reported among 39% of recently diagnosed prostate cancer patients, and the most commonly used forms of CAM were herbals, vitamins, and minerals. Within those categories, saw palmetto, vitamin E, and selenium were the most popular. The two most popular reasons for choosing CAM were to boost the immune system and to prevent recurrence.[4] According to another Canadian study, approximately 30% of survey respondents with prostate cancer reported using CAM treatments. In that study, vitamin E, saw palmetto, and lycopene were most commonly used.[5] A British study published in 2008 indicated that 25% of prostate cancer patients used CAM, with the most frequently reported interventions being low-fat diets, vitamins, and lycopene. The majority of CAM users in this study cited improving quality of life and boosting the immune system as the main reasons they used CAM.[6]

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