"Treating Advanced Prostate
Cancer with Diet: Part 2" Dr. Ornish and colleagues were
able to show an apparent reversal in the progression of early
stage localized prostate cancer with a plant-based diet
and lifestyle program, and researchers at the University of Massachusetts
and elsewhere showed a similar diet may help slow the progression of even advanced
prostate cancer over a period of four months. How about six months? Researchers at UC San Diego found more
cancer patients in the same situation and put them through
the same protocol. These were patients who were already
treated for invasive prostate cancer by either radical prostatectomy
or radiation therapy, yet had rising PSA levels suggesting
the treatment didn’t work, and the cancer
was on the move. In those with a cancer recurrence,
PSA levels typically rise exponentially, reflecting the gradual, inexorable
growth of the cancer in the body. The rate of this PSA rise
is the single best predictor of the development of overt metastatic
disease, as well as of overall survival. The next step would be what’s
called hormonal therapy, which is chemical or surgical castration,
which has a list of side effects, including loss of libido and sexual
function and strength and vitality.

Therefore, we try to hold off
on that for as long as possible; so, if we’re just waiting, we
might as well give diet a try. So, they were taught to increase intake
of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and beans and to decrease meat,
dairy, and refined carbs. Of all possible lifestyle interventions,
why a whole food plant-based diet? Well, if you look around the
world, there are huge differences in
prostate cancer rates, with “We’re #1 USA, USA”
rates up to a hundred times higher than some places
in Asia, for example. And, it’s not just genetic; within one
generation of coming to the U.S., cancer rates shoot up, and the grandkids
end up with the same top-of-the-pile rates.

A whole range of lifestyle
factors have been looked at, but diet appears to have
the greatest influence. Specifically, consumption of meat
and dairy appears to increase risk, and consumption of plant foods
appears to decrease risk; hence, the plant-based diet. A possible mechanism is arachidonic
acid, an inflammatory compound which we make from omega-6 rich oils like
corn, sunflower, safflower, and cottonseed, and also comes preformed
in animal-based foods, particularly in chicken in the
American diet, and also eggs.

And, in a petri dish, at least,
arachidonic acid appears to stimulate prostate cancer cell
growth as much 200%. But, ask men to remove processed
and animal foods from their diet for six months and
what happens? This is the before. This is how fast their PSA levels were
rising before starting the study. In the absence of treatment, levels of
PSA tend to increase exponentially, but eating healthier,
this happened: 9 of the 10 patients showed an
apparent slowing of cancer growth, and 4 of the 9 an apparent
reversal in cancer growth. The average doubling time, an
estimate of how long it takes for their cancer
to double in size, slowed from doubling every year
to closer to every 10 years.

There’s been other studies using various
diets and nutritional interventions, like vitamin supplements, but none
have worked as well as this one. And their compliance wasn’t
even all that great. They did good about boosting
their whole grain consumption, especially in those first three
months, but then backslid a bit. They did eat more vegetables,
including a serving of greens and an extra serving
of fruit, at least early on, and at least ate one whole serving
of legumes a day, when they started.

So, the researchers did observe some dietary
recidivism by the end of the study. The patients started out stronger, but then
started to slide back into old habits. So, the researchers checked
to see if maybe they were better able to beat off the disease
during that earlier period, and indeed, at the end of three months,
on average, there was PSA reversal. So, changes in the rate of PSA rise were like
opposite that of whole plant food intake, raising the provocative possibility that
PSA may have been tracking those changes suggesting that the adoption of a plant-based
diet may have therapeutic potential in the management of
recurrent prostate cancer. Their findings suggest that without
further surgery, radiation, or chemo, disease progression can be
slowed or even reversed, despite the “prevailing
scientific consensus that cancer progression
is largely irreversible.” They're not refuting the
benefits of standard therapies and not guaranteeing that a plant-based
diet and stress reduction will always
induce remission.

But, the results do contribute to
this growing medical literature that in at least some circumstances,
cancer may be partly reversible. Just by modifying dietary and lifestyle factors,
men may be able to prevent disease spread, all without getting their
testicles chopped off..



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