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Lycopene & Prostate Cancer

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

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Lycopene & Prostate Cancer - Tuesday, August 14, 2007The prostate gland is a chestnut-shaped organ found in men, below the urinary bladder and in front of the rectum. This gland is involved in reproduction, producing some of the fluid present in semen. The prostate gland is the second most common organ in males to be affected by cancer. (Skin is the number one body part to be affected by cancer. Lung cancer is responsible for the greatest number of cancer deaths in men.) It is estimated that 1 in 6 men will have clinical evidence of prostate cancer during his lifetime. Prostate cancer is more common with advancing age. About 2 out of every 3 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in men that are over the age of 65. Some pathology studies indicate that microscopic evidence of prostate cancer can be found in as many as 75% of men by the age of 70. African-American men run a higher risk of contracting prostate cancer than Caucasian males. A family history of prostate cancer, especially in a father or brother at a young age, increases the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer can be detected by digital rectal examination, as well as by a prostate specific antigen blood test. Prostate specific antigen (PSA) is a protein that is produced by the prostate gland. Elevated PSA blood levels are typically present in those with prostate cancer. However, prostatitis, an inflammation of the prostate gland, can elevate PSA levels as well. You can speak with your doctor to find out more about the pros and cons of this blood test, and whether it may be helpful in your case. Healthcare providers usually begin screening for prostate cancer in men at age 50. Screening may begin at age 45 in those with an elevated risk for prostate cancer.

Some research studies have suggested that dietary factors can affect the chance of developing prostate cancer. Frequent consumption of animal fat, such as in red meat, is associated with an elevated risk of prostate cancer. In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, men who ate more than 10 grams of garlic or scallions each day had about a 50% lower risk of prostate cancer than those who consumed less than 2 grams. (10 g of garlic is roughly 3 cloves; 10 g of scallions is approximately 2 tablespoons.) Garlic and scallions contain organosulfur compounds, which are a class of phytochemicals -- substances in plants that may help the body fight disease. Lycopene is an antioxidant found in certain fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit. Processing of tomatoes increases lycopene availability in the body. Lycopene in tomato paste is four times as bioavailable as the lycopene in fresh tomatoes. Some studies have suggested a lower incidence of prostate carcinoma among men whose diets were high in Lycopene; other studies have been contradictory or inconclusive. A recent study cast doubt on a role for lycopene in preventing prostate cancer. (American Association for Cancer Research. "No Magic Tomato? Study Breaks Link between Lycopene and Prostate Cancer Prevention", Science Daily, May 17, 2007.) Other research has suggested that consuming a glass of red wine each day can reduce the risk for developing prostate carcinoma. Resveratrol is an antioxidant present in the skin of red grapes and is found in red wine. It has been postulated that this antioxidant may inhibit the growth of prostate cancer. The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) is a study evaluating the potential role of selenium and vitamin E in reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Recently, researchers have been working on a vaccine utilizing a protein found in prostate cancer cells to help stimulate the immune system in fighting this disease. This vaccine is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It is designed for helping the body fight prostate cancer once it is present, not to prevent the development of prostate cancer.

The National Cancer Institute indicates that, at this time, there is not a proven way to prevent prostate cancer. Early detection of prostate cancer allows for more treatment options. Speak with your doctor or healthcare provider for more information.

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