Men who are concerned about prostate cancer might consider becoming vegan, after new research revealed cutting animal products out of your diet can decrease the risk of developing the disease by more than a third. In the UK more than 47,000 men are diagnosed with the disease every year, making it the most common cancer to affect this group.
The study at California’s Loma Linda University – a health sciences university for Seventh-Day Adventists, many of whom eat no meat for religious reasons – sought to establish whether men were more likely to develop prostate cancer if they ate meat (non-vegetarians), only some meat (semi-vegetarians), dairy and eggs but no meat (lacto-ovo vegetarians), only fish (pesco-vegetarians) or no animal products at all (vegans). The research was funded by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).
The research looked at corollaries between prostate cancer and the food eaten by 26,346 men who had taken part in the Adventist Health Study-2 – a long-term study of the health and dietary habits of 96,000 Adventists living in the US and Canada. Researchers found that men who ate only vegetables, fruit, pulses and legumes had a 35 per cent lower risk of developing the disease, which they described as a “statistically significant protective association”.
Within the cohort, 1,079 cases of prostate cancer were identified, while about 8 per cent of the men described themselves as vegan.
Study lead Dr Gary Fraser suggested that meat-free males would be relieved by the findings, while it was a wake-up call to others: “If you are already a vegan male, be thankful that you will have a lower risk of prostate cancer,” he said. “If you are not vegan, be aware that the lacto-ovo diet and the pesco-vegetarian diet did not give evidence of protection when compared to non-vegetarian Adventists.”
While more research is required to establish how strong the link is between prostate cancer and meat-free eating, in particular to pinpoint exactly what it is about a vegan diet that offers such effective anti-cancer protection – whether it is eating more fruit, for example, or less dairy – the WCRF called the findings “exciting”.
Jimmy Pierce of the Vegan Society said “the disease-preventative qualities of the vegan diet is now overwhelming. Time and again we are seeing new research showing the vegan diet to be significantly better for our health”.
A study in 2012 suggested a link between high consumption of processed meat and an increased risk of developing prostate cancer as well as several other kinds of cancer.
Read an abstract of the report, Are strict vegetarians protected against prostate cancer?, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition