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Men and prostate health

Dr. Donald D. Hensrud, MD, nutrition and preventive medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic, states that about 40% of men in their 70s have latent prostate cancer. Recent findings indicate that vitamin E, lycopene, saw palmetto, selenium, and zinc may lower the risk of developing prostate cancer and may prevent latent prostate tumor cells from becoming cancer.

A group of 10,456 men were evaluated over a seven-year period by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Men who had the highest blood levels of vitamin E (gamma tocopherol) were five times less likely to get prostate cancer than men with the lowest levels of vitamin E. In addition, the study showed that selenium and vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) also reduced prostate cancer incidence, but only when gamma tocopherol levels were also high.

Data from the Physicians Health Study, which has been following healthy men since 1982, found that there was a 41% reduction in risk of prostate cancer in men with the highest blood levels of lycopene, a nutrient found in tomatoes. Lycopene is highly concentrated in prostate tissue and older men tend to have lower lycopene levels than younger men.

A presentation at the American Society for Cell Biology meeting in December 2000 revealed that saw palmetto inhibited prostate cancer cell growth and alleviated urinary symptoms associated with benign prostate enlargement.

An analysis of a five-year supplement study of 1,456 men aged 40 to 64 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington found that 21% took vitamin C, 14% took vitamin E, and only 5% took zinc. Those who took vitamins C or E daily over the course of five years had a 23% lower risk of prostate cancer while those who took zinc daily decreased their risk by 45%.

Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, recommends a 160 mg dose of standardized saw palmetto extract twice per day, and 30 mg of zinc picolinate once per day. Avoiding prostatic irritants such as alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, and tobacco is also recommended. 

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