When You Eat Can Affect Prostate Cancer Risk

You may be familiar with research indicating that what you eat can have a significant impact on your risk of developing prostate cancer. But did you know there may be an association between when you eat and prostate cancer risk as well?

According to a new study appearing in the International Journal of Cancer, men who consumed their evening meal before 9 AM or waited at least two hours after eating to go to sleep had about a 20 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer when compared with people who ate after 10 PM or who retired soon after eating. A similar reduction in cancer risk was seen for women when it came to breast cancer risk.

When you eat and prostate cancer risk

The authors of the study set out to determine when the timing of meals and what people do before and after eating have an effect on cancer risk. Prostate and breast cancers were chosen because they are among the most common cancers around the world and they are both associated with interference of circadian rhythms and night-shift work.

For example, in a 2018 review and meta-analysis, investigators evaluated data from 15 studies involving more than 2.5 million individuals, including 10,715 men with prostate cancer. They found that “shift work is significantly associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.”

In the new study, researchers assessed each participant’s lifestyle and chronotype (a person’s preference for AM or PM activity). The subjects were selected randomly from various health centers and included 621 cases of prostate cancer and 1,205 of breast cancer, a well as 872 male and 1,321 female controls.

After evaluating meal timing, chronotype, sleep habits, and the results of a questionnaire on eating habits and cancer prevention recommendations, the authors concluded that:

  • Following “diurnal eating patterns” (specifically, before 9PM) was associated with a lower risk of cancer
  • Individuals who waited at least two hours after eating to go to bed also showed a lower risk of cancer
  • The reduced risk was approximately 20 percent
  • Manolis Kogevinas, the study’s lead author, noted that if their findings are confirmed, “they will have implications for cancer prevention recommendations, which currently do not take meal timing into account.”

These findings are especially important among cultures, such as southern Europe, where people traditionally eat late at night. In Spain, for example, dinner is usually consumed between 9 PM and midnight.

Other risk factors for prostate cancer

In addition to when the last meal of the day is consumed, other risk factors for prostate cancer include the following. Although there’s little men can do about some of these factors, any that involve lifestyle can be changed!

  • Age: Risk increases with age, especially after age 50
  • Race/ethnicity: Black men are more likely to develop the disease than white men. Hispanic men have a lower risk of developing and dying from the disease than non-Hispanic white men
  • Family history: About 20 percent of prostate cancer is familial, which means it runs in a family. Hereditary prostate cancer, which means it is inherited, accounts for only about 5 percent of all cases.
  • Genetics: Men with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOC) have in increased risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer. Other genes that may increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer include HPC1 HPC2, PHC, CAPB, ATM, and FANCA.
  • Diet: Research has suggested links between certain eating habits and prostate cancer, including red and processed meats and other foods high in fats, especially animal fats (e.g., dairy foods). A natural food diet rich in fruits and vegetables, like the Mediterranean diet or DASH diet, is recommended.
  • Exposure to Agent Orange: Men who were exposed to this chemical during the Vietnam War have been shown to be increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Obesity: Being overweight has been associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer, so men are encouraged to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Lack of exercise: Being sedentary may increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer. Conversely, exercise can help with weight maintenance.


Cancer.net. Prostate cancer: risk factors and prevention. 2018 March

Chapman A. Prostate cancer: eating before this time may reduce your risk of developing the disease. Express 2019 Aug 27

Gan Y et al. Association between shift work and risk of prostate cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Carcinogenesis 2018 Feb 9; 39(2): 87-97

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