Diet and prostate cancer: mechanisms of action and implications for chemoprevention


As one of the most prevalent cancers, prostate cancer has enormous public health significance and prevention strategies would attenuate its economic, emotional, physical and social impact. Until recently, however, we have had only modest information about risk factors for this disease, apart from the well-established characteristics of age, family history and place of birth. The large worldwide variation in the incidence of prostate cancer and the increased risk in migrants who move from low-risk to high-risk countries provide strong support for modifiable environmental factors, particularly diet, in its etiology. Thus, dietary agents have gained considerable attention as chemopreventive agents against prostate cancer. Dietary fat, red and processed meat, vitamin E, selenium, tomatoes, cruciforms and green tea have all been linked with the development and aggressiveness of prostate cancer, through a range of molecular mechanisms. The direction of future clinical trials lies in clarifying the effects of these agents and exploring the biological mechanisms responsible for the prevention of prostate cancer. However, owing to the short time period between diagnosis and treatment, conventional dietary intervention techniques are not always realistic. Until large randomized trials confirm the benefit of chemopreventive and dietary modifications, patients can be advised to pursue a diet and lifestyle that enhances overall health.

Key Points

  • Diet is a major contributory factor in the development and progression of prostate cancer, via multiple molecular pathways

  • Fats, red and processed meat, vitamin E, selenium, tomatoes, cruciforms, and green tea are all associated with modification of prostate cancer risk

  • Agents that are associated with reduced risk of prostate cancer potentially share common molecular pathways of action

  • Not all agents that reduce prostate cancer risk in population-based and preclinical studies have shown benefit in clinical trials for prostate cancer prevention

  • As substantial interaction exists between the mechanisms of action of various dietary agents, combination therapy with multiple molecularly targeted agents is likely to be more beneficial than monotherapy

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Figure 1: Androgen receptor and insulin-like growth factor signaling in chemoprevention.
Figure 2: Molecular events in the pathogenesis of prostate cancer.
Figure 3: Signaling pathways altered in response to oxidative stress.


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Venkateswaran, V., Klotz, L. Diet and prostate cancer: mechanisms of action and implications for chemoprevention. Nat Rev Urol 7, 442–453 (2010).

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