Healthy living

There is some evidence that certain foods may slow down the growth of prostate cancer or reduce the risk of it returning after treatment. Some research also shows that physical activity can help to slow down the growth of prostate cancer, and help with some of the side effects of treatment.

At the moment this evidence is limited and we need more research to show clearly how different foods can help. However, by eating healthily and being physically active you can take more control of your health and do something to improve it. A healthy diet and physical activity can help you stay a healthy weight. They will also benefit your general health and reduce your risk of medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes and other cancers.

You can speak to our Specialist Nurses over the phone or speak to a nurse online about any questions you may have.

Contents

A healthy weight

Alcohol and smoking

Food supplements and herbal remedies

How can I eat more healthily?

Fruit and vegetables

Which foods might help with my prostate cancer?

Which foods should I limit in my diet?

How much physical activity should I do?

How can diet and physical activity help with side effects of treatment? 

A healthy weight

Keeping to a healthy weight can help reduce your risk of a variety of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and some other cancers. Being overweight or obese has been linked to a higher risk of developing advanced prostate cancer.

Being a healthy weight may mean that treatments such as surgery and radiotherapy can have better results. For men who have surgery it may also lower the risk of problems like blood loss and urinary problems.

Read our online fact sheet for information on how to work out whether you are a healthy weight, and how to lose weight.

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Alcohol and smoking

Alcohol

We don't know if alcohol has any specific effects on men with prostate cancer. But we do know that drinking too much alcohol can make you put on weight and causes health problems such as heart disease and some other cancers.

The government advises that men should not regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol a day.

Your doctor or nurse can tell you whether alcohol will affect your prostate cancer treatment. If you have urinary problems after treatment, try to cut down on alcohol as it can make the problems worse. You can find out more about managing how much you drink from NHS Choices.

Smoking

Some research shows that smoking increases the risk of the cancer growing and of advanced cancer. However, if you stop smoking your risk may gradually reduce, and after 10 ten years it could be similar to men who have never smoked. If you smoke there is also a higher chance of prostate cancer coming back after surgery or radiotherapy.

Stopping smoking can help to reduce the side effects of treatment for prostate cancer.

Smoking also puts you at risk of other health problems such as heart disease and stroke. NHS Choices has more information about stopping smoking.

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Food supplements and herbal remedies

Food supplements

There is little evidence to show that supplements are of any benefit for men with prostate cancer. Taking high doses of some supplements could even be bad for your health. You should be able to get all the nutrients you need by eating a balanced diet instead. If you do choose to take supplements, make sure you don't take more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for each nutrient.

Sometimes you may need to take a specific supplement. For example, if you are on hormone therapy, your doctor might recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements to keep your bones from thinning.

Herbal remedies

Some men like to take herbal or complementary medicines to help manage their prostate cancer or the side effects of treatment. However, there is very little evidence that herbal remedies are effective for prostate cancer.

Not all herbal remedies in the UK are licensed, and the quality varies a lot. Be particularly careful about buying herbal remedies over the internet. Many companies make claims that are not based on proper research, and there may be no real evidence that they work.

Both supplements and herbal remedies can interfere with your prostate cancer treatment. It's vital that you tell your doctor if you are taking any supplements, herbal remedy or complementary therapy - just as you would any normal medicine.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) provides advice about how to use herbal remedies safely.

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How can I eat more healthily?

Food is an important and enjoyable part of everyday life and it's important to remember this if you decide to make changes to your diet. Don't worry about the occasional treat, but try to make sensible choices in your day-to-day life.

Set yourself realistic goals and make changes gradually. Trying to make too many changes at once may mean that you are less likely to stick to them. Start by making small changes that you feel comfortable with, for example eating more fruit and vegetables.

Try to cut down on unhealthy foods, such as those high in sugar or saturated fat, although there is nothing wrong with the occasional treat. Check the labels on packaged foods for the calorie, fat, salt and sugar content.

Ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian for help improving your diet or if you have any other medical conditions that could be affected by your diet, such as diabetes.

The picture below shows the main food groups and the proportions that you should aim to include in your diet.

There is more information about how to improve your diet in our online fact sheet.

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Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet and a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables helps to reduce your risk of heart disease, some cancers and other medical problems. Aim to eat at least five portions every day. There is more information available from NHS Choices.

Fruit and vegetables of different colours contain different nutrients. Try to eat a variety to increase your intake of vitamins and minerals.

There is more information about this in our online fact sheet.

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Which foods might help with my prostate cancer?

There is some evidence that certain foods may slow down the growth of prostate cancer or reduce the risk of it returning after treatment. At the moment this evidence is limited and we need more research to show clearly how different foods can help.

  • Soy and other pulses. Pulses such as, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and soy beans in particular contain plant chemicals that are thought to be anti-cancerous. Soy foods include soy milk, tofu, soy yoghurts, soy bread, miso and tempeh.
  • Green tea. Green tea may protect against advanced prostate cancer. For it to have an effect you need to drink around six cups a day, and brew the tea for 5 minutes to release the nutrients.
  • Tomatoes and lycopene. Tomatoes contain a plant chemical called lycopene, which may slow down the growth of prostate cancer. Cooked and processed tomatoes, such as tomato sauces, soups, purees and pastes, are a better source of lycopene than fresh tomatoes.
  • Selenium. Good sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, fish, seafood, liver, kidney and poultry. Taking selenium supplements doesn't appear to have any benefit.
  • Cruciferous vegetables. This is a group of vegetables that includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, spinach and kale.
  • Pomegranate juice. Try drinking a glass of concentrated pomegranate juice a day.
  • Fish and fish oils. Try to eat at least two portions of fish a week. Include at least one, and up to four, portions of oily fish a week. Examples of oily fish include salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, herring and fresh tuna.

 There is more information about all these foods in our online fact sheet.

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Which foods should I limit in my diet?

There is some evidence that certain foods may increase the risk of prostate cancer growing or advanced prostate cancer. As with foods which might help, the evidence is limited.

  • Dairy products and calcium. Eating very high levels of calcium or dairy may increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer. Calcium is important for strong bones and overall health and you need to include some in your diet.
  • Red and processed meat. Eating too much red and processed meat may raise your risk of aggressive and advanced prostate cancer. Red meat includes beef, pork or lamb and processed meat includes ham, bacon, sausages and burgers.
  • Well done meat. Meat cooked at very high temperatures or very well done, such as barbequed or fried meat, might also increase your risk of advanced cancer, particularly if it's red or processed meat
  • Fat.  You need some fat in your diet for your body to function properly. However, eating too much fat can make you put on weight which may increase your risk of advanced prostate cancer.

There is more information about all these foods in our online fact sheet.

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How much physical activity should I do?

Being physically active can improve your physical strength and fitness, reduce tiredness and improve your quality of life. Even a small amount will help.

Find an activity you enjoy, take things at your own pace and don't overdo it. Make sure you rest when you feel you need to.

Aim to be physically active at least two to three times a week. Start gently for short periods of time, such as 15 minutes. If you are able to, gradually build up to 30 minutes of moderate exercise three to five days a week. Your heart should beat faster but you should still be able to talk - about the level of a brisk walk.

What type of physical activity should I do?

Walking, swimming, cycling and gardening are all good exercise. You can do simple things such as getting off the bus one stop earlier, or walking upstairs rather than using the lift. There are also exercises that you can do from your chair or bed, such as lifting and stretching your arms and legs.

You should speak to your GP or hospital doctor or nurse before you start any kind of exercise plan. They can give you advice about what type of activity is appropriate and safe for you. They may be able to refer you to an exercise programme or a physiotherapist who can draw up an exercise programme for your individual needs.

There is more information about physical activity in our online fact sheet.

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How can diet and physical activity help with side effects of treatment?

Hormone therapy in particular can cause a number of side effects which diet and physical activity may be able to help with. They may also help to reduce the side effects of some other prostate cancer treatments. These side effects include:

  • Weight gain
  • Bone thinning
  • Strength and muscle loss
  • Hot flushes
  • Tiredness
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Bowel problems
  • Urinary problems
  • Erection problems

You can read more about these in our online fact sheet.

Our Specialist Nurses answer some common questions about food and prostate cancer here

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References

You can find a full list of references used to produce this page in our online fact sheet