It is important for cancer patients to eat right and get adequate nutrition. The two diets known to be associated with longevity and reduced risks for prostate cancer are the traditional Japanese diet and a Southern Mediterranean diet (MD). Now researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found that men with localized prostate cancer (PCa) who reported a baseline dietary pattern that more closely follows the key principles of a Mediterranean-style diet fared better over the course of their disease.

Their findings are published in the journal Cancer in a paper titled, “Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet and Grade Group Progression in Localized Prostate Cancer: An Active Surveillance Cohort.”

“…we aimed to investigate the association between adherence to the MD and clinical disease progression in a group of patients with localized PCa care-fully followed on a prospective clinical protocol,” the researchers wrote. “We hypothesized that closer adherence to the principles of the MD or higher MD scores at baseline enrollment would be associated with improved grade group (GG) progression-free survival (PFS). Considering that other pharmacologic interventions in these patients may either mask or synergize with the effects of the MD score, we further explored the joint or modifying effects of statin use and diabetes status on the relationship between the MD score and the risk of progression.”

“Men with prostate cancer are motivated to find a way to impact the advancement of their disease and improve their quality of life,” said Justin Gregg, MD, assistant professor of urology and lead author of the study, published in Cancer. “A Mediterranean diet is non-invasive, good for overall health, and as shown by this study, has the potential to effect the progression of their cancer.”

The study, whose largest number of participants were white, also found that the effect of a Mediterranean diet was more pronounced in African American participants and others who self-identified as non-white. These findings are significant as the rate of prostate cancer diagnosis is more than 50% higher in African American men, who also have a higher risk of prostate cancer death and disease progression.

“The Mediterranean diet consistently has been linked to lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mortality. This study in men with early-stage prostate cancer gets us another step closer to providing evidence-based dietary recommendations to optimize outcomes in cancer patients, who along with their families, have many questions in this area,” said Carrie Daniel-MacDougall, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and senior author of the study.

The study observed 410 men on an active surveillance protocol with Gleason grade group 1 or 2 localized prostate cancer. All study participants underwent a confirmatory biopsy at the beginning of the study and were evaluated every six months through clinical exam and laboratory studies of serum antigen PSA and testosterone.

The participants completed a 170-item baseline food frequency questionnaire, and Mediterranean diet score was calculated for each participant across nine energy-adjusted food groups. The participants were then divided into three groups of high, medium, and low adherence to the diet.

After adjustments for age and clinical characteristics, researchers saw a significant association between high baseline diet score and lower risk of cancer grade progression. Future research is needed to see if the same results can be seen in a large diverse group and those with high-risk prostate cancer.

“Our findings suggest that consistently following a diet rich in plant foods, fish, and a healthy balance of monounsaturated fats may be beneficial for men diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer,” Gregg said. “We are hopeful that these results, paired with additional research and future validation, will encourage patients to adapt a healthy lifestyle.”