How to Starve Prostate Cancer
Euclid resident Larry Day was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in 2013. “My PSA tests were normal. I thought I just had an enlarged prostate,” he says.
“I was shocked to learn I’d probably had cancer for years.” Radiation and hormone therapy were his first courses of action. But he was game for more. “I said I’d do anything to keep living,” says Larry. “So when my doctor suggested changing my diet in addition to having the other treatments, I was ready to go.”
WHAT THE SCIENCE SAYS
David Levy, MD, a urologist who sees patients at Cleveland Clinic’s main campus, Beachwood Family Health and Surgery Center and Euclid Medical Office Building, has long suspected that diet and nutrition affect prostate cancer. “Men in India, China and Japan have some of the lowest rates of prostate cancer,” he says.
“Compare that with the U.S., where men are 20 times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. It’s even more prevalent in England, Norway, Sweden and France. Medical studies indicate a link between Western diets — with lots of meat, dairy and fatty foods — and the development and aggressiveness of prostate cancer cells.”
Dr. Levy notes that studies indicate that prostate cancer can be stunted in some men, even those with advanced disease. Additionally, research demonstrates that vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids can impact prostate cancer growth.
“The way men’s bodies metabolize proteins in meat and dairy somehow seems to speed up prostate cancer cells,” says Dr. Levy. “Having low levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids is like taking your foot off the brake and allowing the cells to replicate even faster.”
FROM SCIENCE LAB TO KITCHEN TABLE
In 2014, Dr. Levy began promoting a custom nutrition program for men with prostate cancer. It’s just one example of the innovative care approaches within Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Urology.
The diet is predominantly vegetarian, with generous, carefully monitored supplements of vitamin D and fish oil (omega-3 fatty acid). Hamburgers, chicken wings, ice cream and pizza — foods that raise omega-6 fatty acids and skew the proportion of omega-3 fatty acids — are mostly out.
Plans are to perform genetic analyses of men’s cancer tumors before beginning the regimen and six months later. “As we record more evidence, we may introduce the program to men who don’t have prostate cancer but have a high risk, such as those with a high PSA or family history,” says Dr. Levy.
Larry began taking high doses of vitamin D and fish oil in 2015. He also cut back on red meat, dairy and sugary foods. “I eat more poultry now and stick to almond milk,” he says. “I’ve added a lot more fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans to my diet, and only eat whole grains.”
Larry’s wife, Pat, changed her eating habits to match his. In addition to treating prostate cancer, the diet also has positive effects on cholesterol and blood sugar levels, blood pressure and more. Larry reports that his energy level is higher than ever. “My only complaint is that I haven’t lost any weight — but Pat has!” he says.
SUPPLEMENTING OTHER TREATMENTS
Today, Larry’s prostate cancer has shown no signs of progression. He will continue his nutrition regimen as well as hormone therapy long-term. “Diet changes are not instead of, they’re in addition to other treatments,” says Dr. Levy.
“Changing the environment inside your body may change cancer cell behavior as well as help you feel and function better.” Larry adds, “We have the utmost confidence in Dr. Levy. We wouldn’t want to be on this journey with any other doctor.”
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Levy or another Cleveland Clinic urologist, call 216.444.5600.
PHOTOS BY DON GERDA