Diet, Nutrition, and Lifestyle

Foods to Avoid if You Have Prostate Cancer

foods to avoid for prostate cancer

Medically reviewed by Dr. Paul Song M.D

Common foods that may cause prostate cancer could be in your fridge and pantry right now. It is important to be an informed shopper so you can know where your food is coming from and how it is packaged to avoid hormones, chemicals, and carcinogens. Here is what you need to know about common foods to avoid for prostate cancer whether you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer or are concerned about prevention.

Which Foods to Avoid for Prostate Cancer?

If you have been newly diagnosed with prostate cancer, watching what you eat and following The Prostate Diet can help with your longevity and immunity. Here’s a list of foods to avoid for prostate cancer because they may increase inflammation, come with chemicals and hormones, or may encourage cancer growth.


Artificial Sweeteners

In 2009, researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah deciphered part of the process by which tumor cells use more glucose (sugar) than normal cells, a fact that has been known since 1923. Both sugar and artificial sweeteners have been shown in studies and trials to be a potential “precursor” for cancer growth but despite this, the FDA and other government bodies continue to allow these artificial sweeteners in our foods. These include aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), cyclamate (banned in the US because of link to cancer but used in some other countries), neotame, saccharin (Sweet ‘n Low), and sucralose (Splenda).

Although there are no studies directly linking intake of artificial sweeteners with cancer in humans, countless animal studies have, including several from Italian researchers associating sucralose with leukemia in mice. Because of the uncertainty concerning the cancer-causing impact of artificial sweeteners, as well as their negative impact on gut bacteria and metabolism, it’s recommended you avoid them.

Calcium and Dairy Foods

Dairy foods are a source of many nutrients, but most notably calcium and protein. When it comes to prostate cancer, one concern is with the amount of calcium men get from dairy, as calcium intake has been associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.

In the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study, investigators examined the diets of 142,251 men and especially their intake of animal foods, protein, and calcium. After an average of 8.7 years of follow-up, 2,727 men had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Of the men with prostate cancer, 1,131 had localized disease while 541 had advanced stage prostate cancer. The dietary data analysis indicated that calcium found in dairy foods (but not other foods) and a high intake of dairy protein were both associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. The results supported the authors’ hypothesis: “that a high intake of protein or calcium from dairy products may increase the risk for prostate cancer.”

The risk of developing prostate cancer appears to begin early in life. One study found that adolescent boys who drank milk daily had a more than threefold increased risk of developing advanced prostate cancer later in life.

Canned Tomatoes and Tomato Products

Although tomatoes and tomato products support and promote prostate health, especially because of their high lycopene content, you should avoid tomato foods packaged in cans. The resin linings of aluminum cans contain bisphenol-A (BPA), which is a synthetic estrogen that can leach into the tomatoes because they are acidic. BPA is associated with an increased risk of cancer and other health problems. There are a few companies that are starting to make BPA-free canned tomatoes. They are harder to find, but look for aseptic BPA-free packaging or glass.


Fried, barbecued, and cured chicken are high on Dr. Michael Gregor’s list of foods for men to avoid because of the carcinogenic compounds that can be present in these items. In a study of 1,294 men with prostate cancer, for example, greater consumption of poultry with skin was associated with a twofold increased risk of disease progression. One explanation for this danger is that poultry with skin has high levels of heterocyclic amines, mutagens found in much greater concentrations in well-done poultry than in other meats. Heterocyclic amines have been shown to induce prostate cancer in rats and attach to and damage DNA in cultured human prostate tissue.


Whether they are fried, boiled, poached, or over easy, eggs aren’t so easy on your health. Whole eggs are a rich source of choline, a nutrient that has been associated with a greater risk of prostate cancer. While cooked fresh eggs contain nearly 300 mg per egg, dried eggs provide more than four times that amount. Eating whole eggs has been associated with a twofold increased risk of prostate cancer progression. Researchers suggest this higher risk is associated with the high level of choline. Choline concentrations are higher in malignant prostate cells than in healthy cells. A Harvard School of Public Health study noted that among the 47,896 men in its study, intake of choline was associated with an increased risk of deadly prostate cancer.

Farmed Salmon

It’s common knowledge that salmon is a good source of the healthy fat, omega-3 fatty acids. However, you want the benefits of those fats without the negative effects from farmed salmon. Farmed salmon are crammed into pens, fed soy and fishmeal (which is high in contaminants), dosed with antibiotics, and colored with artificial dyes to make them pink. The result is fish that are lower in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, and higher in contaminants (e.g., PCBs, brominated flame retardants, dioxin, DDT) than wild salmon.

Farmed salmon is not the only farmed fish that should be avoided, because the way they are raised is similar for other types of fish as well. Verify the source of any fish you buy.

French Fries and Potato Chips

Who doesn’t love the taste of fried potatoes? Unfortunately French fries and potato chips are some of the most unhealthy foods you can eat. You don’t need us to tell you that they are filled with saturated fat and salt, but they also contain acrylamide, which is a possible carcinogen. Boiling or other forms of cooking potatoes do not cause acrylamide to form—just frying. Also, nonorganic potatoes are one of the most contaminated foods. They absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides from the soil. These toxins cannot be washed off because they are in the flesh of the potato. When you buy potatoes choose organic and bake or boil them instead frying.

Nonorganic Meats

Nonorganic meat contains antibiotics, steroids, and other hormones. About two-thirds of the cattle in the U.S. are given testosterone and estrogen to increase growth and meat yield. The residues from these hormones in the meat may promote the development of prostate cancer. Cows who are not raised organically are fed foods that are not part of their natural diet of grass, including corn, soybeans, and other grains to fatten them up. All of this is bad news for your prostate.

Insulin-like grown factor (IGF-1) is a hormone found in meat and dairy products that may increase risk of prostate cancer. A study by the university of Oxford team discovered that men with high levels of IGF-1 were up to 40% more likely to develop prostate cancer than men with low levels of the hormone.

Nonorganic Potatoes

Potatoes can be a very good nonfat, high-fiber food choice, but beware: they are exposed to several doses of poisons. Potatoes absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides from the soil, they are treated with fungicides while they are growing, the vines are sprayed with herbicides before harvest, and then once the potatoes are dug up, they are treated again to prevent them from sprouting. You cannot wash away the chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh of the potato. The only safe solution is to buy organic potatoes. When you eat out, chances are the potatoes on the menu won’t be organic, so choose wisely.

Red and Processed Meats

A link between red meat and processed meats and cancer has been well established. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), processed meats (e.g., bacon, sausage, bologna) are a class 1 carcinogen, which means there is strong evidence that they cause cancer. Red meat, such as beef, pork, veal, mutton, and lamb, have been classified as a probable cause of cancer.

Dozens of studies have examined the role of meat in causing prostate cancer. For example, in a case-control study conducted at Harvard University involved nearly 15,000 male physicians, the investigators found that men who consumed red meat at least five times a week had a relative risk of 2.5 for developing prostate cancer when compared with men who ate red meat less than once a week.

In a subsequent study of more than 175,000 men spanning 1995 to 2003, the researchers evaluated the meat consumption of the participants, including the type of meat consumed and how it was cooked. By 2003, 10,313 men had developed prostate cancer, and 419 of these had died. The authors found that after they adjusted for factors known to increase the risk of prostate cancer, they discovered that “men who ate the most red meat were 12 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer and 33 percent more likely to have advanced cancer than those who ate the least amount of red meat”.

The same study also found that processed meats are associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer. When the authors compared red processed meats (e.g., bacon, bologna) with white varieties (e.g., processed turkey slices) the red meats were linked to a greater cancer risk than the white meats. Processed and cured meats also contain nitrates, which are preservatives added to meats such as cold cuts and bacon. These preservatives are associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer.

When meat (especially red) is cooked at very high temperatures, compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed. These compounds have been linked to various cancers in humans. A Vanderbilt University study in the journal Nutrition and Cancer evaluated the relationship between consumption of well-done meat and meat carcinogen exposure with the risk of cancer. The results from this study show that high intake of well-done meat and high exposure to carcinogens in meat, especially HCAs, may increase the risk of cancer, including prostate cancer.

A National Cancer Institute study also examined the associations between meat consumption, iron, nitrite/nitrate, and prostate cancer in a group of 175,343 men aged 50 to 71 years. During a nine-year follow-up period, the researchers identified 10,313 cases of prostate cancer and 419 deaths from prostate cancer. When they evaluated the consumption of red and processed meat, the researchers found that iron, barbecued and grilled meat were all associated with total and advanced prostate cancer, while nitrites and nitrates were associated with advanced prostate cancer.

A high-fat diet raises levels of estrogen in the body, and fat cells harbor estrogen. Therefore men who have a high intake of fat, which is abundant in meat and other animal products, risk raising their estrogen levels and thus the possibility of prostate cancer. In the December 2010 issue of Nutrition and Cancer, the authors evaluated data regarding intake of red meat, fat, garlic, and tomato/tomato products for 194 men who had prostate cancer and 317 healthy controls. They found a significant trend of increasing risk of prostate cancer associated with intake of dietary fat, as well as an increased risk with dietary red meat, along with a protective effect from tomatoes and garlic.

About two-thirds of the cattle raised in the United States are given hormones, including testosterone and estrogen, because it increases both their growth and meat yield. These hormones are then passed along to individuals who consume these products. Hormone residues in food may promote the development of prostate cancer in men.

Another hormone found in meat and dairy products may also increase the risk of prostate cancer: insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). A University of Oxford team conducted a review of 12 studies that included nearly 9,000 men and discovered that men who had high blood levels of IGF-1 were up to 40 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than men who had low levels of the hormone.

You can help reduce your risk of prostate cancer by following a diet that limits or eliminates meat and focusing on high-fiber, low-fat, nutrient-rich sources of protein. A diversified plant-based diet can provide all the protein and other essential macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber to support and maintain health and help prevent prostate cancer. Plant foods that provide good to excellent amounts of protein include dried beans (e.g., black, kidney, pinto, red), lentils, split peas, fermented soy, amaranth, quinoa, kamut, buckwheat, and others. These foods also provide high amounts of fiber, which can help eliminate cancer-causing toxins from the body.

Red meat increases risk of prostate cancer, especially when grilled at high temperatures Men who eat a lot of red meat are 2.3 times more likely than men who do not eat read meat to develop aggressive prostate cancer. When BBQ meat is charred at high temperatures over an open flame, a reaction occurs that causes two chemicals to form: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS). These carcinogens have been shown to cause prostate cancer as well as other types of cancer.


Sugar may taste good, but that’s where the “good” part ends. Along with the empty calories sugar contributes to the diet, it is also believed by many experts to fuel cancer cell growth, among them Patrick Quillin, PhD, RD, former vice president of Nutrition for Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

Whether sugar directly causes cancer is uncertain. What is certain, though, is that too much sugar can lead to other disorders such as obesity and insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome that can be a high risk factor for cancer. If you want something sweet, choose fresh fruit, nature’s natural sugar.


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