What men eat — particularly fatty meats and cheese — may affect how quickly their prostate cancer progresses, a new study suggests.
“We show that high dietary saturated fat content is associated with increased prostate cancer aggressiveness,” said study author Emma Allott, a research assistant professor at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina.
“This may suggest that limiting dietary saturated fat content, which we know is important for overall health and cardiovascular disease prevention, may also have a role in prostate cancer,” she said in a school news release.
However, the study did not prove that diet directly affects prostate cancer behavior, only that there is a link between those factors.
The researchers looked at more than 1,800 men from North Carolina and Louisiana. All had been diagnosed with prostate cancer between 2004 and 2009. They were asked about their eating habits and other factors at the time of their diagnosis.
Higher intake of saturated fat from foods such as fatty beef and cheese was linked with more aggressive prostate cancer, the researchers found.
A diet high in saturated fat contributes to higher cholesterol levels, researchers said. They noted that the link between saturated fat and aggressive prostate cancer was weaker in men who took cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.
The researchers said that suggests that statins reduce, but don’t completely reverse, the effect that high amounts of saturated fat may have on prostate cancer.
The study also found that higher levels of polyunsaturated fats, found in foods such as fish and nuts, were associated with less aggressive prostate cancer.
Further research is needed to learn more about why a diet high in saturated fat is linked with more aggressive prostate cancer, Allott said.
The researchers presented their findings April 18 at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in New Orleans. Findings presented at meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on prostate cancer.