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23 August 2004
Prostate Cancer Slowed With Low Fat Diet
by George Atkinson

A low-fat diet may help men battling aggressive prostate cancer live longer, say researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center. The researchers showed that a diet low in polyunsaturated fats slowed cancer growth and increased survival times in the laboratory. The study appears in the journal Cancer Research.

In the study, mice with human prostate cancer were fed a diet low in polyunsaturated fats and remained in remission about twice as long as mice fed a diet with a much higher fat content. Levels of PSA - which measures the amount of prostate cancer present - were markedly lower in the mice fed a low-fat diet.

Dr. William Aronson, the study's lead author, called the results "very significant," but cautioned that large studies need to be conducted in humans to ensure the results can be duplicated.

"These results provide a sound basis for clinical trials evaluating the impact of dietary fat reduction in prostate cancer patients on hormone therapy," said Aronson. "This new finding tells us that a low-fat diet can impact cancer growth and survival times in laboratory mice.

We need to understand why, and duplicate the results in humans."

Doctors have been recommending a diet low in fat for some time, based on studies offering evidence that such eating habits may help prevent certain cancers. This study is the first to show that a low-fat diet may help hormone therapy work better and longer, Aronson said. "Now we need to do more detailed laboratory studies to find out how the fat intake is affecting the growth of the androgen independent cancers," Aronson said.

Human studies are several years away, Aronson said. However, men with prostate cancer can switch to a low-fat diet now and perhaps reap some benefit. Aronson suggests patients reduce their intake to about 15 to 20 percent of calories from fat and combine that with daily exercise, for example taking a brisk walk or doing aerobic activity for 30 minutes every day. Men also should eat more tomato products, particularly tomato paste, and make sure the fat they do eat contains omega-3 fatty acids, the type found in fish oils. "I think dietary fat reduction, coupled with high fiber intake from fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors, can truly have an impact on prostate cancer prevention, and in combination with existing treatments, perhaps increase survival times for patients," Aronson said.

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